The government will take a call on extending the PMGKAY scheme to provide free ration to the poor beyond September 30, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Monday without elaborating on when the decision is expected.
The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) was launched in March 2020 to provide free 5 kg foodgrains per person per month to about 80 crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to reduce their hardship during the lockdown period.
This was over and above the general allocation under the NFSA.
The scheme has been extended multiple times and is now valid till September 30.
"The government has to decide," Pandey told reporters when asked about the extension of the PMGKAY scheme.
On the food ministry's view on the extension, the secretary said: "These are big government decisions...government will take a call on it."
Pandey was speaking on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the Roller Flour Millers' Federation of India.
Initially in 2020-21, the PMGKAY scheme was announced only for a period of three months of April, May and June 2020 (Phase-I). Later, the government extended the scheme from July to November 2020 (Phase-II).
With the COVID-19 crisis continuing in 2021-22, the Centre had in April 2021 re-introduced the scheme for a period of two months of May and June 2021 (Phase-III) and extended it for another five months from July to November 2021 (Phase-IV).
The scheme was again extended from December 2021 to March 2022 (Phase-V).
On March 26, the Centre had extended the scheme to provide 5 kg of foodgrains free of cost to the poor by six months till September 30 at a cost of Rs 80,000 crore.
The total expenditure under PMGKAY has touched nearly Rs 3.40 lakh crore.
The free grains are over and above the normal quota provided under the NFSA at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 2-3 per kg.
The government has allocated over 1,000 lakh tonnes of free foodgrains under the PMGKAY till Phase VI.