Ahead of the assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Raipur that the Centre would extend the free ration scheme to the poor for another five years.
Addressing a public rally in the Chhattisgarh capital, PM Modi said, “I have decided that the BJP government will extend the scheme of providing free rations to 80 crore poor people in the country for the next 5 years. Your love and blessings always give me the strength to make sacred decisions.”
According to government officials, this move will incur an expenditure of approximately Rs 2 lakh crore.
Presently, beneficiaries of the NFS (National Food Security) Act pay a nominal fee of Rs 1-3 per kilogram for food grain. As per the Act, 5 kilograms of foodgrain is allocated per person each month for priority households, and 35 kilograms per family each month for Antodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) families, with highly subsidised prices of Re 1, Rs 2, and Rs 3 per kilogram for coarse cereals, wheat, and rice, respectively. However, in 2023, the government will offer complimentary rations to the scheme’s beneficiaries.
This decision comes just before the conclusion of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) on December 31, 2022.
PMGKAY was introduced during the Covid pandemic in 2020, under which the government supplied 5 kilograms of food grain free of charge to individuals within the NFSA quota.
The Centre has now amalgamated the PMGKAY scheme with NFSA.
Officials described this recent Cabinet decision as a “New Year gift for the nation’s underprivileged,” stating that over 81.35 crore people will now receive complimentary foodgrains.
The beneficiaries will not be required to make any payment to obtain food grains, they added.
The Centre introduced the NFSA in July 2013, bestowing a legal entitlement upon 67% of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas) to receive substantially subsidised food grain.
The coverage under this Act is founded on the population figures from the 2011 Census. The NFSA is presently in operation in all 36 states and Union Territories, covering roughly 81.35 crore individuals.
Recently, the Minister of Food, Piyush Goyal, informed the parliament that under the PMGKAY, the government has allocated an aggregate of nearly 1,118 lakh tonnes of food grains to the states and Union Territories (total allocation from Phase I to Phase VII).
The overall sanctioned budget for food subsidies and central assistance for all phases, from I to VII, amounts to about Rs 3.91 lakh crore, he mentioned.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah unveiled BJP’s manifesto for the upcoming Chhattisgarh Assembly election at an event in Raipur.
The manifesto, titled ‘Modi ki Guarantee 2023’, includes health insurance schemes, cooking gas subsidies and sponsored visits to Ram temple in Ayodhya for poor people in the state, among other promises.