BHUBANESWAR: The Union Cabinet’s decision to extend the distribution of free rice under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for four months from December 2021 to March 2022 to National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries has come as a relief for the State government.
The decision came two days after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allocate additional rice to Odisha for the next eight months under PMGKAY until the Covid-19 pandemic situation improved and normalcy was restored. His plea for further extension of free distribution of ration to NFSA beneficiaries stemmed from the fact that economic activities have not yet reached the pre-pandemic level as a result of which people are still struggling to lead normal lives.
On November 5, Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey had said the Centre has no proposal to extend the distribution of free ration under PMGKAY beyond November 30 in view of recovery in the economy and good disposal of foodgrains in the open market under the open market sale scheme (OMSS) policy.
The BJP claimed that the Centre has spent Rs 5,214 crore for the distribution of free rice to 3.17 crore NFSA beneficiaries for 15 months in four phases during the pandemic. In the wake of economic disruptions caused by the unprecedented outbreak of Covid-19 in the country, the Centre in March 2020 had announced the distribution of additional free-of-cost foodgrains (rice/wheat) to all NFSA beneficiaries at the scale of 5 kg per person per month under PMGKAY. This was over and above the regular monthly NFSA allocation of foodgrains.
Phase-I and Phase-II of the scheme were operational from April to June and July to November, 2020 respectively. Phase-III of the scheme was implemented from May to June, 2021 and Phase-IV is currently operational for July-November, 2021. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his concern for the food security of a vast majority of the population of the country.