Central government has decided to extend the free ration scheme
The Central government has decided to extend the free ration scheme for three more months. This is the seventh extension of the scheme. Announcing this today, Anurag Thakur, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, said: "The tenure of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) is being extended till December 2022. In the next three months, around Rs 44,000 crore will be spent under this scheme."
The scheme was started during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Under the initiative, 5 kg of free food grains are provided per person per month among the poor. This latest extension of the scheme will cost the government Rs 44,762.07 crore.
The decision to extend the free ration scheme, which was scheduled to end on September 30, has been taken in view of the forthcoming festive season. However, political observers say that the scheme has helped the BJP and with elections scheduled in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year, the decision to extend it could have been influenced by political considerations.
Making the announcement, the Information and Broadcasting Minister said: "This will bring smiles to the faces of the poor."
Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for extending the free ration scheme, Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, tweeted: "This scheme is ensuring that the stove of every poor is kept burning and about 80 crore citizens continue to get food grain."
According to the Union Finance Ministry, extension of the scheme is likely to add a burden of Rs 45,000 crore to the national exchequer. Sources said that in view of the additional financial liability, the ministry had recommended that the quantity of food grains provided under the scheme be reduced, but the government is likely to continue with the drive in its current form.
The Finance Ministry further said that because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and other subsidies that are already in force, extension of the free ration scheme will bring the ministry under further financial pressure. In the last two years, around Rs 2.6 lakh crore was spent under this initiative.
In March 2020, when India went into stringent lockdown in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre had launched the PM-GKAY to provide free 5 kg of food grains per person per month to more than 80 crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The additional free grains are over and above the normal quota provided under the NFSA at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 2-3 per kg.