Distribution of free grains to 8 cr migrants likely to be completed before June 15: Centre

New Delhi, May 22 (PTI) The Centre on Friday said distribution of free foodgrains to 8 crore migrants for two months is expected to be completed before June 15 and asked state governments to ensure no poor goes hungry in this COVID-19 crisis.

In a meeting with state food ministers through video conference, Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan reviewed the progress of foodgrains and pulses supply to the needy under the existing food law and the 20 lakh crore economic package announced for those affected by the coronavirus lockdown.

With regard to distribution of free grains to migrants, Paswan said Haryana and Tripura have started distribution, and around 17 states have lifted the foodgrains from the central pool for this purpose.

'The distribution of foodgrains is expected to be completed before June 15,' an official statement said.

Under the economic package, the government is providing free 5 kg foodgrains per person and 1 kg chana per family for May and June months to 8 crore migrants (1.96 crore families) who do not have either central or state ration cards. The cost of Rs 3,500 crore will be borne by the centre.

'States/UTs are not required to provide a list of beneficiaries in advance, but they are requested to send the distribution report of foodgrains by 15 July, 2020,' Paswan said in the meeting.

The Centre has allocated about 8 lakh tonne of wheat/rice and 39,000 tonnes of chana to states for distribution to migrants, he added.

In the meeting, northeastern states and UT of Andaman Nicobar expressed gratitude to the Centre for ensuring timely supply of foodgrains in this crisis period through air, sea and rail routes. Other states also thanked the Centre for the aid.

Paswan told states that they should ensure distribution of foodgrains so that no one goes hungry.

He also said that food subsidy of Rs 28,847 crore has been issued since January 1 to states/UTs, which is more than double the subsidy of Rs 12,356 crore in the year-ago period.

He also stressed that states like Odisha and West Bengal, affected by Cyclone 'Amphan', should also take care of those affected by the cyclone.

On implementation of distribution of additional foodgrains for free to 81 crore rationcard holders under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKAY), Paswan said more than 90 per cent of foodgrains have been distributed for the month of April by almost all the states, while 61 per cent of grains has been distributed for May month also.

In Punjab, Sikkim, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, the distribution for April month was less than 75 per cent under the PMGKAY.

'Delhi, West Bengal, Manipur, Kerala and Bihar have either not started distribution of foodgrains for May month or it is less than 10 per cent,' the statement said.

As far as pulses distribution under the PMGKAY was concerned, the government said 1.27 lakh tonnes of pulses have been distributed to beneficiaries of 21 states and 5 union territories so far.

State governments have received 3.02 lakh tonnes of pulses so far against the total requirement of 5.87 lakh tonnes.

On ration card portability, Paswan said so far 17 states and union territories have joined the initiative of 'One Nation, One Ration Card'. Three more states -- Odisha, Nagaland and Mizoram will be added by June 2020 and by August 2020, with Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Manipur joining the online platform, total 23 states/UTs will be part of this scheme.

Paswan said the government is planning to cover all states/UTs by March 31, 2021 under the scheme.

On foodgrains procurement, the government said wheat procurement is down by 1.90 per cent at 31.99 million tonnes so far from 32.61 million tonnes due to late start of purchase because of COVID-19.

Paswan said, going by the present pace of procurement, the target of 40 million tonnes kept for the season is likely to be achieved.

'With such robust inflows into the central Pool, state-run FCI will be able to replenish its granaries with fresh stocks quickly, even after meeting all additional requirements of food grains to fulfil the needs of people during the current crisis,' the government said.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has a comfortable foodgrain stock of over 60 million tonnes, much higher than the monthly requirement of 60 lakh tonnes to meet demands under the National Food Security Act and other welfare schemes. PTI LUX MKJ MKJ