The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved extending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s free ration scheme for the poor by three months to December 2022. The Cabinet decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) for about 80 crore beneficiaries, at an additional cost of Rs 44,762 crore. In all, the scheme’s outlay has now swelled to Rs 3.91 lakh crore since launch, amid Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. The free ration scheme has witnessed multiple extensions since April, 2020. The scheme was in force during April-November 2020, and then has been in effect since May 2021 to date.
The Centre had so far allocated more than 1,000 lakh tonnes of free food grains; and as of September, the total expenditure under the PM-GKAY stood at Rs 3.45 lakh crore. Under the PM-GKAY scheme, the beneficiaries, covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), get five kilograms of food grains (Wheat and Rice) per person per month. This quantity is above the quantity of food grains that they are entitled to under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). Under AAY, beneficiaries are provided with 35 kilograms per family. Over the next three months through December, the government will distribute 122 lakh tonnes of free food grain to the beneficiaries.
Uttar Pradesh is the biggest beneficiary of the free ration scheme. The state has roughly 14.72 crore NFSA beneficiaries who are covered under the PM-GKAY, according to government data. The Centre allocated about 139.41 metric tonnes of free food grains for the state till March 2022. The free ration scheme is a part of the pro-poor PM Garib Kalyan package, launched for the period April-November 2020. The Garib Kalyan package also included Rs 50 lakh Insurance scheme for health-care workers, and 20 crore Jan Dhan account holders receiving Rs 500 per month for three months, among other benefits.
Other major cabinet decisions
DA hike: The government decided to increase the dearness allowance by four percent for the central government employees and pensions, due from July 1, 2022.
Railway redevelopment project: Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, following the meeting, announced a redevelopment project for three major railway stations – New Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Mumbai at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore.