Migrant workers have caught the attention of the nation during the ongoing corona pandemic, but it has become difficult for the states to distribute free foodgrains to them. Only 13 per cent of the foodgrains allocated under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ scheme has been distributed while in some states such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Goa, there has been no distribution at all.
Under the ‘Self-reliant India’ scheme, the Central government has allocated 8,00,268 tonne of foodgrains for distribution in May and June for the migrant workers. But by the end of June, only 1,07,032 tonne of foodgrains were distributed. Thus, only 13.37 per cent of the total foodgrains allocated were distributed.
Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan had allocated 8,00,268 tonne of foodgrains for the migrants during May and June, based on an estimate of eight million migrant workers across the country, but only 15.2 per cent of the May quota was distributed as against the 11.6 per cent of the June quota. However, in May and June, Rajasthan distributed 95.1 per cent of the allocated food grains to migrant workers.
The Union minister, however, says the purpose for which this scheme was launched has been fulfilled, but he himself acknowledged that due to lack of accurate data of migrant workers with the states, the distribution of foodgrains could not be estimated.
Recently Paswan said the objective of this free foodgrain distribution scheme launched for migrants was to ensure there was no starvation in the country and the needy could avail of the foodgrains.
During the corona pandemic, the number of stranded migrants in various states was estimated to be nearly eight crore, but according to ministry figures 1,21,62,028 people across the country availed of the scheme in May while the beneficiaries in June were only 92,44,277. Instead of eight crore migrant workers, the data of even one crore could not be collected.
However, experts say the main reason for the low foodgrain distribution under the scheme was its strict conditions, which made it difficult to identify the beneficiaries. As per the terms and conditions, the persons eligible for the scheme could be the same who were not the beneficiaries of the public distribution system under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) or the beneficiaries of other schemes of grain distribution.
The Central government had made a provision to provide free five kg of foodgrains each to the eligible migrant workers and one kg of gram each to their family under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ scheme.
Similarly, for the NFSA beneficiaries, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) has been started under which five kg of foodgrains and one kg of pulses are being distributed to each beneficiary since April. Seeing the usefulness of this scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the extension of this scheme for five months from July to November. But the scheme of free foodgrain distribution for migrants will not be continued after June.