Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take a call on extending the PMGKAY scheme to provide free ration to the poor beyond December, Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje said on Thursday said stressing that the government has sufficient foodgrains stock.
If Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) has to be extended, the decision will be taken by the Cabinet, headed by the prime minister. The Cabinet meeting is scheduled on Friday. In September, the government had extended PMGKAY for three months till December 31.
Sufficient buffer stock available
"Covid-19 cases are coming. The scheme is till December. After that, the decision (on extending it) will be taken by the prime minister," Karandlaje, Minister of State for Agriculture, told reporters.
In last 28 months, the government has spent Rs 1.80 lakh crore on distribution of free ration to the poor under PMGKAY, she said. The government has sufficient foodgrains stock to meet the requirement under the food security law and other welfare schemes, she added.
The minister further said foodgrains procurement for Public Distribution System (PDS) and welfare schemes like PMGKAY is being done smoothly even as there were "misconception of production fall in rice and wheat" due to some impact of drought and climate change on crops in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
Last week, the food ministry had said about 159 lakh tonne of wheat and 104 lakh tonne of rice will be available as on January 1, 2023, as against buffer norms requirement of 138 lakh tonne of wheat and 76 lakh tonne of rice as on January 1.
As on December 15, around 180 lakh tonne of wheat and 111 lakh tonne of rice were available in the central pool, it had said.
PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana
PMGKAY was started in April 2020 to help the poor whose livelihoods were shuttered by a nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus. Under the scheme, 5 kg of wheat and rice is provided free of cost to 80 crore poor per month.
Karandlaje also listed out steps taken to upgrade PDS with modern technology so as to check wastage and siphoning of PDS foodgrain besides making payment of support price for procured grains directly to farmers via DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) mode.
Renewed focus will now be on encouraging production and export of millets ahead of International Year of Millets to be celebrated in 2023, she added.
(With inputs from PTI)