Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY; transl.  Prime Minister's Food Security Scheme for the Poor) is a food security welfare scheme announced by the Government of India in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. The program is operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

The scheme aims to feed the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System, to all the priority households (ration card holders and those identified by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana scheme). PMGKAY provides 5 kg of rice or wheat (according to regional dietary preferences) per person and 1 kg of dal to each family holding a ration card.[1] The scale of this welfare scheme makes it the largest food security program in the world.[2]

The scheme has been affected by widespread corruption and failure to distribute grain to the intended recipients. Two states failed to distribute any grain, and 11 distributed less than 1%.[3]

Overview

The scheme was initially launched on 26 March 2020 with an announcement by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who announced the program as part of the existing Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana welfare initiative in his first address to the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the scheme was launched for the period from April—June 2020, with a cost of 1.70 lakh crore (US$24 billion) to the exchequer.[4]

The scheme was further extended to November 2020 in a later address to the nation by Modi. By the end of May 2020, the food ministry estimated that the program had reached 740 million beneficiaries. Praising the program, a government official noted the coverage under the welfare scheme as "impressive".[5] Another union minister commented on the scheme, saying: "This will ensure no one sleeps hungry in the country..."[6]

As the initiative was due to expire by the end of June 2020, ten states in the country requested an extension of the time frame.[7] This was confirmed by Modi in his sixth address to the nation since the onset of COVID-19 in India. With consideration to the upcoming festival season in India, Modi announced the extension of PMGKAY up to November 2020, which according to government estimates would benefit 800 million beneficiaries. He further noted that the program would incur an additional expenditure of 90,000 crore (US$13 billion) for its extension. The scale of the scheme makes it the biggest food security program in the world.[2] Reporting on Modi's speech, the Financial Express claimed the scheme "could feed 2.5 times the US population, 12 times the UK population, and twice the European Union's population".[8] Modi thanked the "hardworking farmers and honest taxpayers" in his speech for the success of the scheme.[9] Immediately after Modi's announcement, the Home Minister of India, Amit Shah, called a meeting of the Group of Ministers to ensure the smooth implementation of the scheme.[10]

In response to the states' request for an extension of the food security program, Minister for Food Supplies Ram Vilas Paswan further commented that another flagship scheme of the government, "One Nation - One Ration Card", is being planned and scheduled to be launched in March 2021. The new proposed scheme is devised to cater especially to migrant laborers to help them receive subsidized grain from any "fair price" shops across the country.[7]

Failure of distribution due to corruption at ground level

Data released after PM Modi's speech from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution revealed that most of the free grain failed to be distributed to intended recipients due to corruption among food dealers and village council members. Both Goa and Telangana distributed no grain at all with a further 11 (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Odisha, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, and Tripura) distributing less than 1% of their allocated amount in April and May 2020. A further six (Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, and Ladakh) also distributed zero grain in June 2020.[3]

Ram Vilas Paswan, the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said that "Some states are not distributing grain to the poor. [We] have problem in providing foodgrain to states, so when it is being given free, I don't understand the problem in distribution. We are taking this issue seriously". The Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey blamed a lack of migrant workers for the failure to distribute grains. The director of Oxfam India, Ranu Bhogal, blamed corruption among food dealers and village council members.[3]

References

  1. ^ "What is Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana? How Will it Help 80 Crore Migrant Workers?". Archived from the original on 6 July 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Modi govt's largest ration subsidy scheme for 80 Cr Indians; check full details of govt plan - The Financial Express". Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "India's COVID-19 free food rations: Government's 'compassionate' gesture blighted by inefficiencies". Food Navigator Asia. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Coronavirus in India: FM Nirmala Sitharaman announces economic relief package - Business News". Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Centre tells states to pace up distribution of grains to migrants - The Economic Times". Archived from the original on 9 June 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  6. ^ "PM has ensured no one sleeps hungry in country: Prakash Javadekar on extension of Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana | India News - Times of India". Archived from the original on 12 July 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  7. ^ a b "10 states seek extension of free grains scheme - The Economic Times". Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  8. ^ "PM Modi extends Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Diwali, Chhath, end of November - The Financial Express". Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  9. ^ "PM Modi announces free food grain scheme extension, urges people to wear masks - india news - Hindustan Times". Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  10. ^ "Soon after PM Modi's announcement, Amit Shah chairs meeting of GoM over PMGKAY". Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.