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Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana extended till March 2022

New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) Terming it as a pro-people move, the Centre on Wednesday announced it was extending the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for another four months i.e., from December 2021 till March 2022 as Phase 5 of the scheme started during the lockdown last year.

The scheme envisages five kg grain per person per month free of cost for all the beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) (Antyodaya Anna Yojana & Priority Households), including those covered under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur, while announcing the cabinet decision on Wednesday, claimed that India is perhaps the only country in the world that provided free food grains for 15 months to 80 crore people.

Phase 1 and 2 of this scheme were operational from April to June 2020 and July to November 2020, respectively. Phase 3 was operational from May to June 2021 while the Phase 4 is currently operational for July-November 2021.

Earlier, banking on revival of the economy and claiming its market interventions to keep prices in check are working, the Centre had on November 5 announced the scheme's end from November 30.

"Since the economy is reviving - our OMSS disposal is also being exceptionally good because of extremely good and consumer friendly OMSS policy this year. So, there is no proposal to extend this scheme," Food and Public Distribution Secretary, Sudhanshu Pandey had then told media persons.

After the cabinet announcement, Pandey told media persons on Wednesday: "Overall assessment of the situation by the government helps it take a decision. It is a pro-active measure to support the population, support people when they are in the process of recovery. Economy too is in the state of recovery."

The PMGKAY scheme for Phase 5 from December 2021 till March 2022 would entail an estimated additional food subsidy of Rs 53,344.52 crore. The total outgo in terms of food-grains is likely to be about 163 LMT.

During the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country last year, the Government had in March 2020 initiated this scheme and started distribution of additional free-of-cost foodgrains (rice/wheat) to about 80 crore NFSA beneficiaries at the scale of 5 kgs per person per month under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY), over and above the regular monthly NFSA foodgrains i.e., regular entitlements of their ration cards.

So far, under the PMGKAY (phase 1 to 4), the Department had allocated a total of almost 600 LMT foodgrains to the states/UTs equivalent to about Rs 2.07 lakh crore in food subsidy.

The distribution under PMGKAY 4 is presently ongoing, and as per the reports available from states/UTs so far, 93.8 per cent foodgrains have been lifted.

Overall, the government will be incurring an expenditure of nearly Rs 2.60 lakh crore in PMGKAY Phase 1 to 5.