Context: Recently, the Govt has extended the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), a scheme to distribute free foodgrains to the poor, for another three months (October 2022-December 2022).
About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY):
- It was started during the difficult time of COVID-19 crisis, to provide food security to the poor, needy and the vulnerable households/beneficiaries so that they do not suffer on account of non-availability of adequate foodgrains.
- It is a part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package to help the poor fight battle against Covid-19.
- PMGKAY has so far had an estimated subsidy of Rs 3.45 lakh crore in six phases.
- Phase VII (Oct 2022- Dec 2022) of PMGKAY entails an estimated subsidy of Rs. 44,762 Crore.
- After considering the estimated outgo of foodgrains — about 122 lakh tonnes during the current phase of extension, the aggregate allocation will be around 1,121 lakh tonnes.
Features of PMGKAY:
- Under this welfare scheme, 5 kg of food grain per person per month is provided free of cost for all the beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) (Antodaya Anna Yojana & Priority Households) including those covered under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
- This is over and above the regular monthly quota under the NFSA, i.e., 35 kg per month per family for AAY and 5 kg per month a person for PHH(Priority Household).
- There are around 80 crore beneficiaries who come under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
Performance of PMGKAY:
- Policymakers and experts concede that the scheme made a difference to food security and public health during the pandemic.
- For instance, it has been commended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food and Public Distribution and also by an IMF-published working paper, “Pandemic, Poverty, and Inequality: Evidence from India” (April 2022) which concluded that “the social safety net provided by the expansion of India’s food subsidy program absorbed a major part of the pandemic shock.”
Concern over the Extension:
- Promote Freebies Culture: This scheme promotes the culture of freebies and the significance of freebies culture is under debate.
- Financial Issues: There were reports in June that the Expenditure Department at the Centre did not favour it, citing a funds crunch.
- With the expenditure of ₹44,762 crores for the existing phase, the overall expenditure of the PMGKAY will be approximately ₹3.91 lakh crore.
- Relevance in Non-pandemic Time: It also held the view that such a scheme was no longer needed “in non-pandemic times”.
- Impact on Global Level: This has to be viewed in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, raging since February 2022, and its adverse impact on the world’s food and energy sectors.
- Political Agenda: Critics of the ruling party point out that the scheme’s extension is with an eye on the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, respectively.
- The central authorities should commission a comprehensive and transparent study and make its findings public.
- The proposed study should be the basis for updating the database of foodgrain-drawing card holders, scrutinizing the data critically and zeroing in on the needy
- It would have been far better had the Government taken the decision to extend the scheme based on findings of an objective study regarding the impact of the PMGKAY, as suggested by the Standing Committee in its March 2022 report.
- The centre should consider providing 1 kg pulses free to States on a regular basis, or at least at highly subsidized rates.
The central and State authorities need to ponder over the scheme’s continuance, given the chronic problem of diversion from the Public Distribution System (PDS). To keep the budgetary allocation under control, rules on quotas for rice or wheat can be changed suitably.
Source: The Hindu