New Delhi, Mar 26 (PTI) The Centre on Thursday said it will offer an additional 5 kg wheat or rice free of cost per month for next three months to 80 crore people through ration shops as well as 1 kg of pulses per family as part of its relief package to protect poor people from disruption caused by the nationwide lockdown.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown for 21 days, starting March 25, to check the spread of coronavirus disease.
The extra foodgrains will be over and above what ration card holders are entitled at present under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The Centre provides 5 kg of grains per person per month at a highly subsidised price of Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 3 per kg for rice, costing the exchequer about Rs 1.5 lakh crore annually as food subsidy.
Announcing the relief measures, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said free distribution of foodgrains and pulses will be done under the Rs 1.7 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY).
"Under PMGKY, 80 crore poor people, which comprise two-thirds of our population, will get 5 kg foodgrains per person for free for the next three months. This will be over and above the existing quota of 5 kg under the PDS," Sitharaman said.
Besides, she said 1 kg of pulses of regional preference will be provided to each poor household for free per month for the next three months.
Rationcard holders can take the foodgrains and pulses from the Public Distribution System (PDS) in two installments, she added.
"This measure will ensure no gareeb (poor) remains hungry," Sitharaman said.
According to official data, the government has a total of 58.49 million tonnes of foodgrains in Food Corporation of India''s (FCI) godowns.
Out of this, rice is 30.97 million tonnes and wheat 27.52 million tonnes.
The foodgrains stock is much higher than the required norm of maintaining a reserve of about 21 million tonnes as on April 1.
Later, finance ministry in a statement said, "Government of India would not allow anybody, especially any poor family, to suffer on account of non-availability of foodgrains due to disruption in the next three months."
"80 crore individuals, i.e, roughly two-thirds of India''s population would be covered under this scheme. Each one of them would be provided double of their current entitlement over next three months. This additionality would be free of cost," the statement said.
To ensure adequate availability of protein to poor people, the government will also provide one kg of pulses per family for next three months free of cost, it added.
The government has sufficient buffer stock of wheat, rice and pulses because of bumper production and procurement of these crops during the past several years.
State-owned FCI procures wheat and rice at the minimum support price, while cooperative Nafed has been procuring pulses from farmers. PTI LUX MJH RVK
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI