Recording positive growth rates in each of the quarters of FY21, including the lockdown-ravaged Q1 and Q2, the agriculture sector has been a stellar performer for the Indian economy. Buoyed by a normal monsoon last year, foodgrain production is estimated to reach 30.34 crore tonne in 2020-21, a 2% increase compared to last year’s figure of 29.75 crore tonne. This gives the Centre ample elbow room to continue delivery of free food grain to the bottom of the pyramid beyond Diwali this year.
About 79.39 crore people started receiving free foodgrain from May and according to the Prime Minister’s announcement would get it till Diwali this year.
Each person gets 5 kg of foodgrain per month under this scheme. This allocation is over and above the quota stipulated by the National Food Security Act. With the farmers flooding the warehouses with foodgrains, the Centre should extend the free grain scheme till at least the end of FY22, at the end of which the programme should be reviewed.
The need for an extension of the programme is evident from the job loss data. The second wave of the pandemic extinguished as many as 2.53 crore jobs in just 120 days between February 1 and May 31, or a shocking loss of 2.4 jobs every second.
Workers in the unorganised sector have been the worst hit. Most of them hardly have any social security cover. Worse, a huge number of informal sector workers get wages that are substantially below the minimum wage of Rs 375 per day suggested by an expert panel way back in 2017-18. Needless to say, the poor wages don’t allow them to save for the rainy day.
This free foodgrain scheme ensures nutritional support to a large number of people. And our fellowmen deserve what our farmers produce more than the rodents in FCI silos.
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