NEW DELHI: The government extended by three months the free ration scheme, popularly known as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). It will be valid till December now at a cost of over Rs 44,700 crores. The present term of the scheme was to end on September 30.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the Union Cabinet decision to extend the scheme, under which over 80 crore people have been getting free ration, will ensure support to them during the festive season.
The government is learnt to have taken the decision to extend PMGKAY in order to ease the pain of the poor due to high inflation and also to gain politically in the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
"Free ration to 80 crores for three more months till December 2022 to cost Rs 44,700 crores,'' Union minister Anurag Thakur told the media after the Cabinet meeting.
The free ration scheme was first launched in 2020 across the country to give much needed relief to the poor during Covid-19 pandemic. In phase 1, the PMGKAY scheme was announced only for a period of three months -- April, May and June 2020. Later, the government extended the scheme from July to November 2020 in phase-II.
As Covid-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc across the country, the government reintroduced the free ration scheme for two more months -- May and June 2021. It was again extended for five more months, till November 2021. In phase V, the free ration scheme was extended till March 2022 and in phase VI, it was extended 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 crores.
"The total expenditure under PMGKAY has touched nearly Rs 3.40 lakh crore," the minister said....