Why is it in the news?
- Indian Prime Minister has recently announced a five-year extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), a scheme providing 5kg of free foodgrains to eligible ration cardholders under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA).
- This extension aims to continue addressing food security needs and supporting vulnerable populations.
- PMGKAY was initiated in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Initially set to expire in December 2022, it was extended to December 2023 and now for an additional five years.
- Over 1,118 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains have been allocated, costing Rs 3.9 lakh crore.
National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA)
- NFSA, introduced in 2013, shifts the approach to food security from welfare to a rights-based approach.
- It entitles up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to subsidized food grains.
- Beneficiaries include Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Households (PHH), with ration cards issued in the name of the eldest woman in the household.
- AAY households receive 35 kg of foodgrains monthly, while PHH receive 5 kg per person per month.
Merger of PMGKAY and NFSA
- In January 2023, PMGKAY was integrated into NFSA, providing all rations for AAY and PHH families at no cost.
- This merger eliminated extra provisions introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic by incorporating them into NFSA.
Impacts of PMGKAY Extension:
- Addresses immediate food security needs, ensuring access to essential food during crises.
- Supports local farmers and rural economies through foodgrain procurement.
- Promotes social cohesion and collective responsibility.
- Incurs significant fiscal costs and risks straining the fiscal deficit.
- Disrupts market dynamics and may distort agricultural prices.
- Creates dependency and may not be a sustainable long-term solution.
- Encourages competitive populism and inconsistent policies.
- Introduce digital vouchers (e-Rupi) for targeted beneficiaries to purchase nutritious food.
- Develop technology platforms for efficient distribution of excess food to those in need.
- Invest in economic empowerment programs like skill development and job training.
- Gradually reduce subsidies while implementing alternative support systems to avoid shocks to vulnerable populations and the economy.