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Monday, Dec 05, 2022

Free grain ‘labharthi’ percentage in Gujarat lower than national average, lowest in HP

In poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, 37.69 lakh and 8.18 lakh 'unidentified' NFSA beneficiaries, respectively, may continue to miss out on PM-GKAY

The BJP-led central government has announced the extension of its free foodgrains scheme – Pradhan Mantri-Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) – for another three months till December-end. (Express Photo By Ganesh Shirsekar)

Just ahead of the declaration of the schedule for the Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, which are due in November-December, the BJP-led central government has announced the extension of its free foodgrains scheme – Pradhan Mantri-Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) – for another three months till December-end.

However, as many as 45.87 lakh people in the two poll-bound states may continue to miss out on the free grain scheme as they are yet to be identified as beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

Under the PM-GKAY, the government provides free 5 kg foodgrains per person per month to eligible beneficiaries of the NFSA, which is over and above their monthly entitlement under the NFSA.

A maximum of 67.21 per cent (81.35 crore people) of the country’s 121.03 crore population (Census 2011) can be covered under the NFSA. However, of the intended 81.35 crore NFSA beneficiaries, 79.76 crore (98.05 per cent) people have been identified as beneficiaries so far, according to the data with the Food Grain Bulletin, a monthly report published by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

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This report thus shows that the gap between the intended and identified NFSA beneficiaries in the country is currently about 1.58 crore, who could be identified by the state governments to give them PM-GKAY benefits too. Of these unidentified NFSA beneficiaries, altogether 45.87 lakh people are from Gujarat (37.69 lakh) and HP (8.18 lakh), even as the Centre has regularly urged the states to identify all such beneficiaries according to their maximum permissible limit.

Three years after the NFSA came into force, Gujarat implemented it from April 2016. However, the number of persons identified as the NFSA beneficiaries is still relatively low in the state. Of its 603.84 lakh population (Census 2011), a maximum of 382.84 lakh people (63.40 per cent) can be covered under the NFSA, who can also avail PM-GKAY benefits. However, till August 2022, only 345.15 lakh people (90.16%) have been identified as beneficiaries, which is lower than the national average of 98.05 per cent.

Thus 37.69 lakh people have remained unidentified as NFSA and PM-GKAY beneficiaries in Gujarat, which points out that every 10th intended NFSA beneficiary may continue to miss out on the PM-GKAY in the state.

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In Himachal Pradesh, a maximum of 36.82 lakh (53.70 per cent) of the state’s 68.57 lakh population can be covered under the NFSA, but so far only 28.64 lakh people (77.80%) have been identified as beneficiaries, which is the lowest in the country. This means that 8.18 lakh intended NFSA beneficiaries are yet to be identified in the hill state. This also indicates that every fifth intended NFSA beneficiary may not avail the PM-GKAY benefits. It is another matter that the NFSA came into force in the state since October 2013.

Before it got another extension Wednesday, the PM-GKAY was supposed to come to an end on September 30. The free ration scheme has been acknowledged as one of the key factors in the BJP’s return to power in Uttar Pradesh in the Assembly polls held earlier this year. However, its impact on the Gujarat and HP elections might be relatively limited for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the coverage ratio of subsidised foodgrain beneficiaries under the NFSA is lower in Gujarat (63.40 per cent population) and HP (53.70 per cent) than the national coverage ratio (67.21 per cent.). It is much lower in these states when compared to UP, where 76.19 per cent of the population is covered under the NFSA. Since only NFSA beneficiaries are entitled to the PM-GKAY benefits, the percentage of free foodgrain “labharthi” (beneficiaries) in the two states is also much lower than UP.
Secondly, the actual coverage of the NFSA beneficiaries in Gujarat – 90.16% – is even lower than the national average that stands at 98.05 per cent. At 77.80%, it is lowest in HP among all states.

First published on: 30-09-2022 at 10:24:58 am
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