Announced as part of the COVID-19 relief package about a month ago, free pulses — 1 kg per family — to beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) are yet to reach many households in the economically poor strata.
Out of the total monthly allocation of 1.95 lakh metric ton (LMT) pulses under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY), barely 19,496 ton have been distributed by the states till Wednesday, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, which is monitoring supply of essential items during the nationwide lockdown.
According to sources, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED), which comes under administrative control of the Agriculture Ministry, has been tasked with ensuring supply of pulses from the buffer stocks it maintains.
In a statement on “Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Progress So Far”, the Finance Ministry on Thursday stated that “1,09,227 MT of Pulses have also been dispatched” to various states and Union Territories (UTs).
However, the Food Ministry’s data shows that against a monthly allocation of 1,95,531 MT pulses under PMGKAY to provide pulses free of cost to 19.55 crore families under NFSA, 1,22,312 MT have been issued to states. Out of this, 44,932 MT have been sent to “destination” states, 34,768 MT received by these states, and only 19,496 MT distributed to the beneficiaries, ministry data shows.
Sources in the Food Ministry said sluggishness in distribution is due to a late start of the milling process by NAFED despite announcement of PMGKAY on March 26, a day after the country went into lockdown.
A senior official of NAFED told The Indian Express, “We have to distribute free pulses to 19.55 crore families for three months across all 36 states and UTs. In big states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the number of eligible beneficiaries is quite high and, therefore, the allocation is high, (so) we are taking some time.”
But NAFED is sending pulses to these states, he added.
The official said pulses in quantity have been sent to UTs such as Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Puducherry and Chandigarh, and smaller states such as Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. “Buffer stock of pulses is always kept un-milled (whole), and the milling process takes some time,” the official said.
NAFED is the central nodal agency for procurement of notified agricultural commodities, including pulses, under the Price Support Scheme run by the Agriculture Ministry. It also maintains a buffer stock of pulses under the Price Stabilisation Fund Scheme administered by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
After Food Ministry officials flagged a sluggish response in supply of pulses to the states, the Cabinet Secretary is learnt to have asked officials concerned in the Agriculture Ministry and NAFED to ramp up supply.
In a statement issued on March 26, the government had said, “To ensure adequate availability of protein to all the above-mentioned individuals, 1 kg pulses per family would be provided according to regional preferences for next three months. These pulses would be provided free of cost by the Government of India.”
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