New free foodgrain scheme as an illusion, doublespeak

Source– The post is based on the article “New free foodgrain scheme as an illusion, doublespeak” published in The Hindu on 18th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues related to poverty and hunger. GS3- Food security

Relevance– Food security Act and related schemes

News– The article explains the recently announced new version of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.

Under the new avatar of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, NFSA beneficiaries will receive five kilos of free food grains every month in 2023.

What is the difference between the earlier format and the new format of the scheme?

The only difference is that now a family of five can collect 25 kg for free. Earlier, under this scheme, they get 25 kg free under the PMGKAY and 25 kg at ₹3 under the NFSA.

So, a family will now have to purchase the remaining 25 kg from the market at the cheapest possible price of ₹450. It implies an additional expense of ₹375 to their monthly budget.

What are the issues with PMGKAY?

Election angle– The latest scheme seems politically motivated to appeal to voters in nine States that go to polls in 2023.

The Indian political landscape is impacted by ethnic heterogeneity and increasing electoral competition. In this scenario, all political parties prefer to differentiate themselves based on such patronage politics.

More than 20 central government programmes have been named or renamed to credit the ‘Pradhan Mantri’.

Exclusion related issues– The PMGKAY lacks universal coverage. The ration records have not been updated since the 2011 Census. At least 100 million beneficiaries, especially children born in the last decade, are missing from ration.

As per estimates, more than 40% of India’s population is currently excluded from both the NFSA and PMGKAY.

The most marginalised castes and communities, especially migrants, sex workers, the homeless and transgender persons are often without NFSA ration cards.

Undermining MGNREGA

The scheme is being systematically undermined by acute Budget cuts, delayed payments and technological hurdles. In the period 2022-23, only 57 million households received NREGA work unlike 73 million last year.


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