In a major relief to the poor amid the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Monday that the government has extended the scheme to distribute wheat and rice free of cost to around 80 crore people till November. Earlier in April this year, the Centre had announced distribution of free food grains for the months of May and June under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana to help people during the second wave of the pandemic. 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. The scheme was reintroduced for May-June 2021 to deal with the impact of the second wave of the pandemic. The estimated cost to the exchequer for these two months was about 25 thousand crore rupees, which will now increase significantly.
For economic agents – particularly poor households and small businesses – the crisis today is a crisis of liquidity. The nationwide lockdown, imposed to stop the novel coronovirus in its tracks, has led to scores of daily wage workers and informal sector entrepreneurs losing earning opportunities from their existing activities.