New Delhi: The Centre is in the final stages of developing a system to capture the data of homeless and the destitute having no ration cards, so that the benefit of subsidized foodgrains can be extended to them also, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Thursday.

Currently, the government supplies highly subsidized foodgrains at Rs 1-3 per kg to over 81 crore people having ration cards through public distribution system (PDS) as part of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Over and above the subsidized foodgrains, the government, during the pandemic, is supplying free foodgrains to NFSA beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY).

This scheme has been extended multiple times and is now valid till March 2022.

Since homeless and the destitute have no ration cards in the absence of an identity card or residential address, they are not covered either under NFSA or PMGKAY.

Asked about steps taken to cover this segment of the population, the Secretary said, “That process is very much on and the development of a system is in the final stages and then it will be put to trial.”

The new system being developed is basically to capture all homeless, shelterless destitute, who might not have ration cards, he said during a virtual media briefing.

State governments have either not issued such people ration cards for reasons of lack of identity or lack of home address, he said, and added, “All these issues will get addressed.”

Another Food Ministry official said states have lifted 11.21 lakh tonne of foodgrains in the current 2021-22 fiscal year for distribution to people not covered under NFSA.

State governments purchased over 11 lakh tonne of foodgrains under the Centre’s open market sale scheme (OMSS) in 2021-22, he said.

Further, the official said that state governments have managed to cover so far only 79.71 crore poor people out of the total 81 crore beneficiaries covered under NFSA.

State governments have been asked to immediately reach out to the remaining 1.6 crore, identify them and bring them under the ambit of NFSA, he said.

With states lifting grains via OMSS, the quantity of wheat and rice sold via this scheme has increased to 71.44 lakh tonne till December 29 this year as against 20.71 lakh tonne in the year-ago period.

Besides states, private companies and organizations have purchased foodgrains via OMSS, taking advantage of the liberalized policy introduced this year to offload the surplus stocks of wheat, improve domestic availability and ease out storage crunch, he added.

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