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In a major relief to the poor amid the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Monday that the government has extended the scheme to distribute wheat and rice free of cost to around 80 crore people till November. Earlier in April this year, the Centre had announced distribution of free food grains for the months of May and June under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana to help people during the second wave of the pandemic. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year in March, the PMGKAY scheme was launched to support the vulnerable sections of society. It was implemented during April to November 2020. The scheme was reintroduced for May-June 2021 to deal with the impact of the second wave of the pandemic. The estimated cost to the exchequer for these two months was about 25 thousand crore rupees, which will now increase significantly.

PMGKAY Extention:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY-III) has been given extention till the Deepawali. This means that till November 2021, more than 80 crore people will continue to get decided amount of free food grain every month.
  • Till 07.06.2021, Food Corporation of India has supplied 69 LMT free food grains to all 36 States/ UTs. 13 States/ UTs i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Goa, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Punjab, Telangana and Tripura have lifted full allocation for May-June 2021. 23 States/ UTs i.e. Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Daman Diu D&NH, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Ladakh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have lifted 100% May 2021 allocation.
  • Out of 7 North Eastern States, 5 States i.e. Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura have lifted the full allocation of May-June 2021. In Manipur and Assam, lifting of free food grains is in full swing and likely to be completed shortly.
  • FCI is transporting food grains all across the country to ensure smooth supply to all States/ UT Governments. During May 2021, 1433 food grain rakes have been loaded by FCI at an average 46 rakes per day.
  • The Government of India will bear the entire cost on account of such distribution including food subsidy, intra-state transportation and dealer’s margin/ additional dealers margin, without any sharing by States/ UTs.
  • The Government of India has sensitized all the States/ UT Governments to complete the distribution of free food grains under PMGKAY in time bound manner.
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana is facilitating supply of free food grains to the beneficiaries amidst ongoing COVID pandemic and thus providing food security to the beneficiaries. The Government of India announced Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to ameliorate the hardship faced by the poor due to economic disruption caused by Corona virus. Under the scheme, free food grains @ 5 kg per person per month is being distributed to beneficiaries covered under NFSA.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana:

  • Considered as world’s largest food security scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana aims at ensuring sufficient food for the poor and needy during the coronavirus crisis.
  • It was announced as part of the first relief package during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Part of the scheme, the food needs to be provided to all the beneficiaries under public distribution system (TPDS) for Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority household (PHH) ration cardholders.

Why these measures were necessary?

For economic agents – particularly poor households and small businesses – the crisis today is a crisis of liquidity. The nationwide lockdown, imposed to stop the novel coronovirus in its tracks, has led to scores of daily wage workers and informal sector entrepreneurs losing earning opportunities from their existing activities.

Concerns and challenges ahead:

  • Certain groups of daily wagers and informal workers may be left out.
  • And the real challenge would come in implementing these measures. For example, while there was sufficient surplus foodgrains available in government warehouses and an existing system for further procurement, the system for procurement of pulses needed to be created in most states.

Constraints to migrant workers:

  • While these measures are welcome, they may fall short of reaching all sections of this vulnerable population.
  • As per the Economic Survey (2018-19), India needs to take big initiatives to improve its food security as it faces supply constraints, water scarcity, small landholdings, low per capita GDP and inadequate irrigation.
  • Most migrant workers do not live with families; many do not cook their meals. Instead, a significant number rely on roadside vendors and dhabas.
  • Without access to cooking arrangement or fuel, only subsidised grains are not a sufficient solution to ensure nourishment.
  • Neither would it be sufficient to attract them back to the urban areas as access to affordable food remains a major concern.
  • Institutions such as the State Food Commissions have not made a big difference either.
  • Distributing nutritious food as a public health measure is still not a political imperative, while ill-conceived policies are making it difficult for many to do this.
  • The report on nutritional deficiency should serve as an opportunity to evaluate the role played by the PDS in bringing about dietary diversity for those relying on subsidised food.
  • A critical aspect of nutrient adequacy is “diet diversity”, calculated by different groupings of foods consumed with the reference period ranging from one to 15 days.


  • Under extreme circumstances, the lack of access to food is a matter of survival.
  • But even in regular times, access to nutritious food is essential. Pandemic or not, access to affordable and safe food should not be an uncertainty for any section of the society.