From today, the government will provide foodgrains free of cost to 81.35 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) for one year. The food ministry on Saturday notified 'zero price' of foodgrains to be distributed to all NFSA beneficiaries from January 1 to December 31, 2023.
The central government will bear the food subsidy of more than Rs 2 lakh crore for the year 2023, it said in a statement.
For smooth implementation, general managers of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) have been asked to visit three ration shops every day in different areas of their jurisdiction mandatorily and submit a report on a daily basis.
In view of free foodgrains, the ministry has also issued an advisory to states on the mechanism to provide dealer's margin distributing foodgrains to the beneficiaries.
The new scheme will provide free foodgrains to 81.35 crore beneficiaries under the NFSA for the year 2023. The scheme would also ensure effective and uniform implementation of NFSA, it said.
Earlier, the beneficiaries covered under the NFSA were paying a subsidised rate of Rs 1-3 per kg till December 31, 2022. Alongside, they were also getting free grains under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) launched in April 2020 to provide relief to the poor during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the PMGKAY that was extended multiple times ended on December 31, 2022. Thereafter, the two food subsidy schemes were subsumed under the new integrated scheme with the Cabinet approval.
"The new scheme is aimed at bringing uniformity and clarity on food security under NFSA at beneficiary level," it added.
Under the new integrated scheme, the central government will provide free foodgrains to all NFSA beneficiaries, both Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households and Priority Household persons, for the year 2023 through the widespread network of 5.33 lakhs Fair Price Shops across the country, it added.
About 5 kg per person per month will be allocated for the priority households category, while 35 kg per family per month for Antodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) families as provided under the NFSA.
Distribution of free grains under NFSA will concurrently ensure uniform implementation of portability under the 'One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) across the country and will further strengthen this choice-based platform, it added.
According to the ministry, the new integrated scheme will subsume two current food subsidy schemes.
One is the food subsidy given to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) under NFSA and the other food subsidy is given to decentralized procurement states dealing in procurement, allocation and delivery of free foodgrains under NFSA, it said.
The ministry has maintained that there are enough food grains stocks in the central pool to meet the demand under the NFSA and other welfare schemes.
About 159 lakh tonnes of wheat and 104 lakh tonnes of rice will be available as on January 1, 2023, as against the respective buffer norms requirement of 138 lakh tonnes of wheat and 76 lakh tonnes of rice as on January 1, it had said recently.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)