Antyodaya Anna Yojana
When PM Modi was campaigning for General Elections of 2014, a slogan that he had used repeatedly during his campaigns was “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas.” We can safely assume that it worked well as he’s sitting in PMO today. Now he has to make that slogan a reality. So after devoting an year to the corporate sector of country now he has started pushing forward his pro poor agenda. A number of efforts have been made to do so, and the latest one is revival of an old scheme called “Antyodaya Anna Yojana” to distribute free grains to some 2.5 crore poorest families of the country. The timing could not be more pointed as NDA government is just about to complete 2 years in PMO within a few days.
On 11th of May 2016 Food Ministry will be suggesting some improvements in National Food Security Act (NFSA) to the PMO. Times of India has reported from citation of some unnamed sources that one of those improvements is to rollout a ‘New Scheme for Food Security’ whose features will be similar to AAY scheme that was launched one and a half decade ago.
Antyodaya Anna Yojana: Brief History
AAY was launched on December 25, 2000 by then ruling NDA government of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At that time 1 crore poorest families were identified in the country to provide food grains on highly subsidized rates. Since then scheme has been revised twice: once in 2003 and again in 2004, both times increasing the number of beneficiaries by 5 million.
Now in this third revision under PM Modi led NDA government it’s likely to receive a new name, which may be on the name of any freedom fighter and is likely to increase the count of beneficiaries by 5 million more families, bringing the new count to 25 million.
Families identified as beneficiaries under the scheme are distributed 35 kg of rice and wheat at the rates of Rs. 3 per kg and Rs. 2 per kg respectively. Coarse grains, on the other hand, are distributed at the rate of Rs. 1 per kg. Other families that’re not part of AAY but are covered under NFSA receive grains at the rate of Rs. 5 per kg.
First of all Central government tries to identify the families that should be benefitted by working with various State governments. The families, once identified, are issued special ‘Antyodaya Ration Cards’ by their respective State governments that they can use to receive ration at subsidized rates from their local ration shops.
The scheme is financed almost entirely by Central government. Currently Centre bears 90% of the subsidy burden for this scheme and remaining is borne by state governments. It’s expected that if implemented in its current form, the scheme will increase the burden of exchequer by Rs. 1.39 lakh crore.
Need of Revision
A question that may come to your mind after reading about the scheme is that why government wants to implement it as a legislation in this revision with a new name. After all, the scheme has been around for more than a decade without being changed in such a big manner until now.
So the answer is that despite spending a tiny fraction of their budgets on the scheme some state governments stand at the forefront when it’s time to take credit for the scheme. As expected, this hasn’t gone down well in BJP circles. Recently Food Minister Shri Ram Vilas Paswan had told the press that states like UP and Bihar have done little to implement the scheme, yet they come ahead in line to take the credit for it.
The inclusion of legislation as a new scheme under NFSA will put the record straight. And since this will also bring the required press attention to the scheme, it’ll also become clear that who’s responsible for the scheme and who’s not.
Let’s review the scheme at a glance before wrapping up:
|Name of Scheme||Antyodaya Anna Yojana|
|Launch Date||25 December,2000|
|Benefits||35 kg wheat @ Rs. 3 per kg|
|35 kg rice @ Rs. 2 per kg|
|Coarse grains at Rs. 1 per kg|
|Beneficiaries||25 million poorest families|
Poor families of the country have many hopes from current government. Therefore, it only makes sense for the government to implement this scheme at the earliest without any delays. Hopefully we’ll hear some good news soon in a few days.