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So far one lakh tonnes of free grain has been distributed under PMGKAY

In the first 10 days, grains have reached 2.03 crore of 80 crore beneficiaries: Food Ministry

Out of the 40 lakh tonnes of free food grain promised under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana for May, one lakh tonnes have been distributed so far, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Monday.

In the first 10 days, PMGKAY grains have reached 2.03 crore of the 80 crore beneficiaries, with 13 States and union territories having started distribution, according to the Ministry data provided in a virtual press briefing. The States which have started distribution of the 5 kg of free rice and wheat include Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

The progress is on expected lines, given the eight-month experience of implementing the PMGKAY during the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020, said Food Ministry Joint Secretary S. Jagannathan. He added that 34 States had already begun lifting food grains from the Food Corporation of India’s stock, and 15.5 lakh tonnes had been lifted so far.

Asked about the needs of migrant workers affected by the lockdown, as well as others without ration cards, Mr. Pandey said that “this time, migrants are not facing that kind of crisis” as there was during last year’s lockdown. There was also no national lockdown this year, but only State and local lockdowns, he said, noting that migrants who reached home would be able to avail ration in their villages, while those still in the cities would make use of the ration card portability scheme. The Centre was also selling its food grain stock at a discounted rate to NGOs and to State governments for those with State ration cards, he said.

Plea by activists, However, Right to Food activists have filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court’s suo motu case on migrant workers, saying that migrants are facing distress during the current local lockdowns as well, and seeking a resumption of last year’s scheme to give free food grains to those without ration cards as well. In an open letter to the Chief Justice on Monday seeking an urgent listing of their plea, petitioners Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar said payment of minimum wages as cash transfers and appropriate transport facilities for migrant workers were needed as well.

With regard to edible oil prices, which had shot up over 50%, Mr. Pandey said the release of imported stock stuck at Kandla and Mundra ports due to COVID-19 related clearance issues would help to ease the situation.