Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on Monday, said that the Central government has decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) till Diwali in the wake of the second Covid-19 wave in the country.
“In this time of pandemic, the government is standing by the poor. By November, free food grains will be available in fixed quantities every month to more than 80 crore countrymen. Nobody should sleep hungry,” said PM Modi.
The PMGKAY was introduced in April last year for three months after the government had announced a lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The scheme was later extended till November. In April 2021, the Centre had re-introduced the PMGKAY initiative for two months—May and June—as the country battled the second wave of Covid-19. According to the government, it had provided 28 lakh tonne foodgrains free of cost to about 55 crore beneficiaries in May through ration shops under PMGKAY. Under the scheme last year, over 200 lakh tonne of free food grains were provided, amounting to a fiscal outgo of over Rs 75,000 crore, covering 80.96 crore NFSA (National Food Security Act) beneficiaries.
In his previous address to the country on 20 April, PM Modi had ruled out the possibility of a second nationwide lockdown and said that states should opt for it as a last resort. But the country witnessed its worst healthcare crisis as daily Covid cases and deaths spiked to an all-time high which led to a near collapse of the health infrastructure.
Hospitals grappled with severe shortage of oxygen supplies, beds, vaccine doses and essential anti-viral drugs such as Remdesivir. Several states and Union territories (UTs) had to impose lockdown or lockdown-like restrictions to arrest the spread of the viral disease. But with cases coming down substantially, states such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, etc—once worst-hit by the pandemic—have started the ‘unlock’ process with a view to revive their economies.