New Delhi: Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Wednesday said 75 crore beneficiaries under the public distribution system (PDS) will be allowed to lift their quota of subsidised foodgrains for six months in one go, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Currently, beneficiaries are lifting grains in advance for maximum two months, while the Punjab government is already distributing six-month quota in one go, he said.
"We have enough foodgrains in our godowns. We have asked state governments and Union Territories to distribute six-month quota of grains to the poor in one go," said Paswan.
Against the backdrop of rising coronavirus infections, the decision seeks to ensure that poor people have enough foodgrains in the event of possible restrictions that could lead to difficulty in getting the supplies.
The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said lifting of more grains in one go will ease pressure on central storage as some quantity of wheat is kept in the open.
The government has surplus foodgrains of 435 lakh tonne as of now, of which 272.19 lakh tonne is rice and 162.79 lakh tonne is wheat, he said.
The PDS requirement for April is about 135 lakh tonne of rice and 74.2 lakh tonne of wheat, said Paswan, adding the government has enough supply to meet the demand and states can lift the quota in advance.
Paswan said the Centre has issued an advisory to state governments for taking necessary safety measures to manage crowd at ration shops in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government currently supplies five kilograms of subsidised foodgrains per month to each beneficiary under the PDS through 5,00,000 ration shops in the country. This costs the exchequer about Rs 1.4 lakh crore annually.
Foodgrains via ration shops are supplied at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 3/kg for rice, Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 1/kg for coarse grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).