Cut across party lines with several states — from BJP– With Gujarat set to extend the free food grains scheme (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana) beyond 30 September – from Congress-led Rajasthan, the Center may be inclined to continue it for at least a few more months.
To mitigate the COVID crisis, the PMGK Anna Yojana was initially announced for a period of three months (April-June 2020) and extended several times with the sixth phase ending in September. Sources said that considering the amount of wheat and rice available in the buffer stock at present, the poor may be provided free food grains for the next three months till December 2022.
The Sunday Express reported on 4 September That the decision to increase it would be a “political call” given the costs involved. The bill for the first six months (April-September 2022) is estimated to be around Rs 80,000 crore, and the Department of Expenditure, under the Union Finance Ministry, in an internal note, advised against extending it to both “on a meal basis”. . on security and financial grounds”.
When contacted, Gujarat Food and Civil Supplies Minister Naresh Patel said the state can request the central government to extend it at least till Diwali. “The Diwali festival will take place in October. So, we can write to the central government to extend it till Diwali, so that it provides relief to the poor families,” Patel said. Indian Express,
According to Patel, the state government is providing free food grains to around 71 lakh families having cards under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), covering a population of about 3.5 crore.
Rajasthan Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said that the Center should continue the PMGK Anna Yojana even after September. I will write to the Center about it. Apart from this, the Center should also increase the limit on the number of NFSA beneficiaries for the states, as more people want to join, but due to the upper limit set by the Centre, we are not able to include them. Express.
Some states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar said that it is for the Center to take the final decision as it is the central government’s plan, some others like Punjab and Maharashtra said they were waiting for the Centre’s response on extending it, and now Also some others like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana said that they have their own free food grains scheme. These three states said that even if the Center scrapped the scheme, they would continue to distribute free food grains.
The cost of continuing the scheme for the next six months is estimated to be around Rs 80,000 crore. Increasing it would be a political call, but the government is closely watching its buffer stock of wheat and rice which will be the major factor.
A government official said it is not so much the financial burden, but the position of the buffer stock that will affect the final decision. “It is definitely a political decision. If the government decides to go ahead, the finance ministry is ready to deal with it. But a decision depends on the buffer stock of rice and wheat,” said a source in the Union Finance Ministry.
Concerns over wheat stocks due to low production (106 million tonnes in 2021-22 as compared to 109 million tonnes in 2020-21) and significantly lower procurement in the central pool (18.7 million MT as against 43.3 million MT this year) Is. last year). Due to this the wheat stock has come down to a 14-year low. The fresh stock as on 1st September is 25 million metric tonnes.
While rice stocks are well above buffer stock norms, low sowing due to uneven monsoon in paddy producing states in the current kharif season has raised some concerns. The agriculture ministry’s data for the week ended September 9 showed that there was a coverage of 393.79 lakh hectares as against last year’s 414.31 lakh hectares. Sudhanshu Pandey, Food Secretary, Food and Public Distribution Department, said in a press conference on Friday, “There may be a shortfall of about 1-12 lakh tonnes in rice production in this Kharif season.
Agriculture ministry sources said the wheat stock in the central pool stood at around 25 million metric tonne as on September 1, 2022 — 16.45 lakh metric tonne less than the wheat stock of 26.64 million metric tonne on August 1 this year. The rice stock in the Central Pool as on September 1 this year stood at 24.6 million metric tonnes. However, it is different from unpolished paddy.
Under the PMGY Anna Yojana, 39.88 lakh metric tonnes of food grains — 7 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and 32.88 lakh metric tonnes of rice — are allocated every month, sources said. In addition, 20 lakh metric tonnes of wheat is required to meet the monthly allocation under NFSA. If the monthly allocation of wheat under NFSA is added to the monthly distribution of PMGK Anna Yojana, the total quantity of wheat required in a month is around 27 lakh metric tonnes.
Hence for the remaining seven months (September-March) of the current financial year, a quantity of about 18.9 million metric tonnes of wheat would be required. This means around 6.1 million metric tonnes of wheat will be available by April 1, 2023, slightly less than the buffer requirement of 7.46 million metric tonnes at the beginning of the financial year each year.
Sources also pointed out that officials in several states had pointed out that many beneficiary families of PMGK Anna Yojana were opting to sell the extra food grains allotted to them under the scheme during the Covid crisis and take money instead. “But the Center decided to continue with the scheme as the conclusion was that the families wanted to get money to meet other needs and this was a crisis period. Ultimately, the aim of the scheme was to ease the hardships faced by the poor during the pandemic,” the source said.