Panel asks ministry to study scope of extending PMGKAY scheme

Barely a week before the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) ends, a parliamentary standing committee has asked the Food Ministry to make an “objective assessment” and find out to what extent the scheme has helped beneficiaries and for how long it needs to be continued.

While “applauding” the Centre for launching PMGKAY, the Committee said the ministry had “not carried out or proposed a study or an objective assessment” of the foodgrains scheme launched in 2020 as the government’s economic response to the Covid pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the entire country in multiple ways. It has impacted the food delivery system with direct and indirect consequences on lives and livelihood of people, especially the most vulnerable sections of the society,” said a report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The Committee is headed by TMC leader and MP, Sudip Bandyopadhyay.

The PMGKAY provided an additional five kilograms of foodgrains per month to beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act.

Spread over five phases, with a total allocation of Rs 759.22 lakh tonnes and financial implication pegged at Rs 2.68 lakh crore, the scheme is scheduled to end March 31, 2022.

The Food Ministry had earlier informed the Standing Committee extension of the scheme beyond March, 2022, would be considered by it “based on the prevailing situation” in the country.

Observing that food subsidy is “still very high” and there is “scope to reduce it further”, the Committee has asked the food department to optimise the Food Subsidy Bill.

While doing so, however, the department may not compromise the demands of beneficiaries and also the preparedness for unwarranted situations such as Covid-19, it said.

The Committee also expressed concerns on the huge dues owed to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) by some departments.

“The Committee notes with concern that a large amount of dues are outstanding against the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education) on account of foodgrains provided to them by FCI for various welfare schemes on payment basis,” the report said.

“The Committee feels that inability to liquidate the outstanding dues of FCI over the years would adversely affect the functioning of FCI and put burden on ever-rising Food Subsidy Bill,” the report said.

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