NEW DELHI: Ahead of the festive season, the poor have reason to cheer as the government on Wednesday announced a three-month extension of free ration scheme or popularly known as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). As the term of PMGKAY scheme ends on September 30, this is the seventh phase of the scheme at a cost of over Rs 44,700 crore under which free ration is provided to the poor in India and has been extended till December 2022.
The government is learnt to have taken such step in order to ease pain of the poor due to high inflation as well as its political gain in the upcoming Gujarat election. "Free ration to 80 crore for three more months till December 2022 to cost Rs 44,700 crore," Union minister Anurag Thakur told the media after the Cabinet meeting.
The free ration scheme was first launched in year 2020 across the country to give a big relief to the poor during Covid 19 pandemic. The PMGKAY scheme was announced only for a period of three months in the Phase-I; ie April, May and June 2020 and later the government extended the scheme from July to November 2020 in the Phase-II.
As Covid-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc across the country, the government reintroduced the free ration scheme for two more months of May and June 2021. It was again extended for five more months till November 2021. In Phase V, the free ration scheme was extended for the fifth time till March 2022 and in Phase VI it was till September 30.
On March 26, the Centre extended the scheme to provide 5 kg of foodgrains free of cost to the poor by six months till September 30 at a cost of Rs 80,000 crore. "The total expenditure under PMGKAY has touched nearly Rs 3.40 lakh crore," the minister said.