Published: 06th November 2021
What the FAQ: What is PMGKAY and who is it meant for?
Ever since the launch of PMGKAY, food security activists have been demanding a universalised ration distribution system — this means that ration cards shouldn't be a barrier in getting access to food
On November 5, the Centre said that there were no plans to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) beyond November 30. This scheme was the free ration system introduced as a relief measure last year when the pandemic hit. The government believes that the economy is back on track and has said that as of now there is no proposal to extend the PMGKAY.
What is PMGKAY?
The scheme was first launched in March 2020, as part of the first COVID-19 relief package. It provides five kg of free foodgrain a month to the 80 crore beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) — who are already eligible for subsidised grains of Rs 1 to 3 per kg from ration shops.
Was this scheme extended?
Yes, the scheme has been rolled out twice and extended twice. Initially, it was only meant to go on for a period of three months (April to June, 2020). However, as the COVID crisis and the consequent lockdowns continued, the scheme was extended for another five month (July to November, 2020). We then witnessed the deadly second wave of the pandemic, and the scheme was once again rolled out for those with a ration card. It was extended again for a period of five months (July to November, 2021).
What was the difference between the first roll-out and the second roll-out?
When the scheme was first announced in 2020, the government included pulses and oils along with five kg of rice or wheat per person per month. However, when the scheme was rolled out again after the devastating second wave, the government decided to put a stop to that and instead limited itself to five kg of rice or wheat per person per month.
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What were the issues with this scheme?
Economists like Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera point out there are millions who are excluded from the Public Distribution System as they do not possess ration cards. Ever since the launch of PMGKAY, food security activists have been demanding a universalised ration distribution system — this means that ration cards shouldn't be a barrier in getting access to food.
In 2020, the central government had identified 80 million poor people across the country without ration cards to provide free ration. However, if we go by the example of Delhi alone, that number is far too little. In a place like Delhi, only 720 million were under the umbrella of the NFSA. When the Delhi government said they will supply ration to all those who need it irrespective of ration card, it was able to identify 697 million unregistered people who were then given free ration.