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The union cabinet has decided to extend the free ration scheme till March 2022, Union Minister Anurag Thakur said on Wednesday.

The extension of the scheme under phase 5 would cost Government of India an estimated 53,344 crore.

It was widely believed that the union government will not extend the free ration scheme, that was launched as a social net for the poor during coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMKGAY) was announced in March last year to ameliorate distress caused by Covid-19. Initially, the scheme launched for the April-June 2020 period but later was further extended till November 30, 2021.

Under the PMGKAY, the government has repeatedly touted that more than 80 crore people are being provided 5 kg free wheat/rice per month along with 1 kg free whole Chana to each family per month.

The free ration to 80 crore ration card holders are identified under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The free ration is given over and above the subsidised grains distributed to them via ration shops.

The government has been giving rice and wheat to bulk consumers under the OMSS policy to improve availability in the domestic market and check prices.

Anurag Thakur said the cabinet has also completed the formalities to repeal the three farm laws.

"During the upcoming session of the Parliament, it will be our priority to take back these three laws," Thakur said.

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