[RSTV Archive] PMGKAY- Shielding the vulnerable in crisis

In a major relief to the poor amid the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, PM has announced that the government has extended the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to distribute wheat and rice-free of cost to around 80 crore people till November this year.


  • After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year in March, the PMGKAY scheme was launched to support the vulnerable sections of society. It was implemented during April to November 2020.
  • In this edition we shall understand more about the scheme and how beneficial will it be for the vulnerable population amid the pandemic.

What is PMGKAY?

  • PMGKAY is a food security welfare scheme announced by the GoI in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • The program is operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • The scale of this welfare scheme makes it the largest food security program in the world.0

Major provisions

  • The scheme aims to feed the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System, to all the priority households (ration card holders and those identified by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana).
  • It provides 5 kg of rice or wheat (according to regional dietary preferences) per person and 1 kg of dal to each family holding a ration card.

Why was such a scheme needed?

The devastation by this pandemic has increased manifold in the second wave resulting into localized restrictions and lockdowns from the States.

  • This has resulted in massive jobs losses in urban areas since the largest employers being construction and hospitality sectors have been completely shut down.
  • The virus has penetrated deeper in the countryside in rural areas halting almost every sources of livelihood.
  • These areas are such where 60% of the income was earned from non-pharm activities. This resulted in livelihood losses of large section of population.

Success of the scheme

  • It was the first step by the government when pandemic affected India.
  • The scheme reached its targeted population feeding almost 80Cr people.
  • It has proven to be more of a safety net to migrant people who had job and livelihood losses.
  • This has also ensured nutrition security to children of the migrant workers.


  • The scheme has been affected by widespread corruption, leakages and failure to distribute grain to the intended recipients.
  • Several of the states above have claimed that the ineffective distribution has been caused by the beneficiaries, especially migrant workers, not being available to receive their rations.
  • Out of the 79.25 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), only 55 crore have so far received their 5 kg.
  • However, almost 90% of beneficiaries have received their regular subsidized grain for the month, raising questions over why the free grain has reached fewer beneficiaries.
  • Many people were denied their share due to inability to access ration cards.
  • Livelihood losses led to decline in aggregate demand and resulted into lowest ever consumption expenditure by the people owing to scarcity of cash.
  • This in turn led to selling of the free grains obtained in the local markets for cash.

Way forward: Making it a roaring success

  • There should be a all-encompassing database for migrant workers and their family. This should accurately capture the data on migration.
  • The One Nation One Ration Card should be implemented in true spirit by all the states.
  • Along with food security, there should be a sustainable income support through schemes like MGNREGS accompanied by free vaccines in nearest future.
  • The leakages in PDS should be minimized through modernize PDS. To avoid leakages, there should be food-token system.


Implementation has been a historical problem in our country with any of the schemes which is meant particularly for poor.


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