Some states, opposition MPs urge Centre for re-implementation of free grains scheme for poor

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New Delhi, Apr 15 (PTI) As the country battles the second wave of the pandemic, some states including Congress-ruled Rajasthan as well as MPs from NCP, TMC, CPI and CPI-M have urged the Centre for re-implementation of the free grains distribution scheme PMGKAY to help the poor.

The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) was announced in 2020 for three months till July to combat the economic impact of COVID-19 on the poor. The scheme was later extended till November 2020. Under the scheme, additional 5 kg wheat and rice along with 1 kg pulses to each family per month was provided to beneficiaries registered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). With various states imposing partial lockdowns and curfews due to a sharp rise in cases in the second wave of the pandemic, the need for providing food security to the poor is being felt again by some state governments. 'Three-four states and public representatives have made specific requests to the Centre to consider that kind of (PMGKAY) scheme implemented last year,' Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said at a virtual press conference. No decision has been taken yet but the central government's thinking is 'liberal' looking at the current situation, he said, without disclosing the name of the states that have requested free grains distribution for the poor. However, according to sources, Congress-ruled Rajasthan, CPI(M)-LDF ruled Kerala and BJP-ruled Uttarakhand governments have made a request to the Centre in this regard. Besides, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar from Maharashtra, where the state government has imposed janta curfew for the next 15 days, has sought the Centre's support in distributing free grains to the poor, they said. CPI MP Binoy Vishwam and CPI-M's Elamaram Kareem as well as TMC leader Saugata Roy have also made a representation in this regard, sources added. According to the food secretary, the Centre is selling food grains at concessional rates to states and welfare institutions under the open market sale scheme (OMSS). 'This scheme is on. About 30 lakh tonne additional grains were taken by the welfare institutions and states,' he added. As per official data, over 200 lakh tonnes of free foodgrains were provided under the PMGKAY amounting to a fiscal outgo of over Rs 75,000 crore last year, covering 80.96 crore NFSA beneficiaries. PTI LUX ABM ABM