The central government on Friday decided to resume providing free food grains to 80 crore poor beneficiaries in May and June to help them tide over the economic hardship in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that would cost the exchequer around Rs 26,000 crore.
"We will provide 5-kg additional food grains for free to PDS beneficiaries under the PMGKAY for two months -- May and June. This time, we are not providing pulses under this scheme," Food and Public Distribution secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said.
"Five kg free food grains to be provided to the poor for the month of May & June 2021. 80 crore (approx) beneficiaries to get free food grains. Rs 26,000 crore will be spent by GOI on this initiative," Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur said in a tweet.
The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana was announced in 2020 for three months till July and later extended till November to combat the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poor.
Under the scheme, additional 5 kg wheat and rice along with 1 kg pulses to each family per month was provided to beneficiaries registered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). But this year, only grains will be given.
Free grains -- which will be distributed on the same pattern as earlier -- will be given to 80 crore beneficiaries. The free grains will be over and above the monthly entitlement under the National Food Security Act, Pandey said.
About 80 lakh tonne of food grains will be required to meet the demand for two months. The move, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's commitment to the poor, will cost the exchequer over Rs 26,000 crore, including on account of interstate transportation of food grains, he added.
PM Modi stressed that it is important that the poor have nutritional support when the country is facing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
The PMGKAY is being re-implemented amid a second wave of the pandemic amid demand from Rajasthan, Kerala, Uttarakhand governments as well as from MPs, including NCP chief Sharad Pawar and TMC leader Saugata Roy.
Under the PMGKAY last year, over 200 lakh tonne of free food grains were provided amounting to a fiscal outgo of over Rs 75,000 crore, covering 80.96 crore NFSA beneficiaries.