16 Apr 2021: States, Opposition leaders urge Centre to start free foodgrain scheme
Amid a raging second wave of coronavirus, at least three state governments and several Opposition leaders have urged the federal government to start a free foodgrain scheme, similar to the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), which began last year when the pandemic first unsettled India.
While no decision has been taken yet, the Centre hasn't dismissed the idea altogether.
Letter: Kerala, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand wrote to Centre
The governments of Kerala, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand have written to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. Opposition leaders like NCP boss Sharad Pawar, senior TMC MP Saugata Ray, and CPI Rajya Sabha member Binoy Viswam have also approached the Centre.
As part of PMGKAY, five kg of rice or wheat/person and one kg of dal per family were given.
Statement: Government has a liberal thinking on this, said official
On Thursday, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said the government is open to the idea.
"There have been suggestions from some state governments as well as public representatives that the Government of India should consider starting a similar scheme again. I am not in the position to say anything more, but in view of the prevailing situation, the government's thinking is very liberal," he said.
Procurement: Procurement had helped over six lakh farmers
Pandey also divulged procurement details during the current rabi marketing season (RMS 2021-22).
"We have made very good progress, as 64.7 lakh metric tonnes of procurement of wheat has taken place until April 14," he disclosed, as per The Indian Express.
Wheat worth Rs. 12,800 crore at MSP of Rs. 1,975 per quintal was procured, helping 6.60 lakh farmers, he added.
Details: The scheme was extended till November-end
The Centre had announced the scheme when the lockdown declared in March 2020 left millions helpless. The complete shutdown had forced lakhs of migrant workers to undertake the journey toward their homes on foot.
The scheme was extended till November-end by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation.
He had said this scheme would help 80 crore people.
Looking back: Restrictions have returned in some states, triggering fears
Now that the unprecedented surge of infections has left India gasping for air, there are concerns that stricter restrictions could be imposed, marking the return of the dire circumstances of 2020.
In Maharashtra, thousands of migrant workers had rushed to railway station to board long-distance trains.