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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: Weighing in on PMGKAY, the free grains scheme

 Source: The Hindu, The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance(PMGKAY, National Food Security Act (NFSA) etc
  • Mains GS Paper II & III: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the Population by center and states and performance of these schemes etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Government has extended Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), a scheme to distribute free foodgrains to the poor, for another three months,

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana(PMGKY):

 

 

  • PMGKAY was part of the Centre’s initial COVID-19 relief
  • Its nodal Ministry is the Ministry of Finance.
  • Beneficiaries under National Food Security Act:
    • It provides for 5 kg of rice or wheat per person per month to be distributed free of cost
    • This is over and above the 5 kg already provided to ration card holders at a subsidized rate
    • e.35 kg per month per family for AAY(Antyodaya Anna Yojana) and 5 kg per month per person for Priority Households(PHH).
    • The 80 crore cap on NFSA beneficiaries and state ration card quotas are based on 2011 census data.
  • Initially:One kg of pulses was also provided under the scheme, which was later restricted to chana dal only, and then discontinued in later phases.

 

Were all poor people covered under the scheme?

  • Ration card: The scheme only provided grain for those families who held ration cards
  • In May and June 2020, the Centre allocated foodgrains to be distributed by States under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme for stranded migrants and others without ration cards.
  • DBT: The PMGKAY covers even Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) beneficiaries.

 

Issues faced with continuing the schemes:

  • Expenditure Department at the Centre: They did not favor it, citing a funds crunch.
  • Russia-Ukraine conflict: Adverse impact on the world’s food and energy sectors.

 

Arguments for continuation of scheme:

  • Pandemic still exists
  • Unemployment remains at record levels
  • Hunger: There is widespread hunger among vulnerable communities.

 

Way Forward

  • Study of scheme: The central authorities should commission a study and make its findings public. Just as it did in the initial months of the pandemic.
    • It should be the basis for updating the database of foodgrain-drawing card holders, scrutinizing the data critically and zeroing in on the needy.
  • Need to go beyond the mandate of the NFSA: as is being done under the PMGKAY, the government can supply the foodgrains at a reasonable price.
  • Ration on regular basis: Centre should consider providing 1 kg pulses free to States on a regular basis, or at least at highly subsidized rates.
  • Rules on quota: To keep the budgetary allocation under control, rules on quota for rice or wheat can be changed suitably.
  • Diversion from PDS: central and State authorities need to ponder over the scheme’s continuance, given the chronic problem of diversion from the Public Distribution System (PDS).

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

  1. Besides the welfare schemes, India needs deft management of inflation and unemployment to serve the poor and the underprivileged sections of the society. Discuss.(UPSC 2022)

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)