The Yogi Adityanath government 2.0 may extend the free ration distribution scheme for 15 crore beneficiaries in Uttar Pradesh till Lok Sabha elections in 2024. The scheme, which cost the state exchequer Rs 1,000 crore/ month since December, was a major plank for ruling BJP government at the hustings.
Under the scheme that was launched in December, beneficiaries get 1 kg of whole chana, 1 litre of edible oil, 1 kg of salt once every month apart from 5 kg of wheat/ rice per unit (family member) per month through the network of 80,000 fair price shops under the Public Distribution System (PDS). The scheme was supposed to be effective till March, but after the resounding success at the hustings, the state government is actively considering to continue with the scheme till 2024, when the crucial parliamentary elections are due.
It may be mentioned that UP’s free food distribution is in addition to the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) that the central government had launched in 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown.
According to sources in the department of food and civil supplies, a proposal to extend the free scheme to all the 15 lakh beneficiaries beyond March 2022 has been sent to the government for approval and a final call on the duration and process would be taken after considering its financial implications. “The proposal is likely to be put up at the very first cabinet meeting after the formation of the new government,” a senior government official said requesting anonymity, adding that on an average, the scheme costs Rs 1,000 crore every month. “In the last four months, the government has spent approximately Rs 4,000 crore on the scheme. A call now has to be taken on whether to roll out the scheme in a phased manner or in one go,” he said.
There are approximately 3.59 crore ration card holders in UP, out of which 3.18 crore are priority household beneficiaries, while 40.94 lakh fall in the Antodaya category. “On an average, Rs 750 crore is being spent by the government for the chana, edible oil and salt component once every month, while another Rs 250 crore is being spent for the foodgrains,” the official said.