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NEW DELHI : The National Democratic Alliance government’s move to provide food to migrant workers going home during the nationwide lockdown has come under scrutiny as senior officials in the government have told a panel on labour that only 31% people identified in the programme benefited from it.

The government’s intent was to help migrant workers, but the target was not achieved in the beginning, the officers said at the meeting of the standing committee on labour on Monday, which was attended by senior officials of the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution and the ministry of housing and urban affairs.

“The situation with regard to the scheme to distribute free food to migrant or stranded labourers is not very encouraging. The intent of the Union government is good because the idea was to provide food to the needy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is behind the scheme but only 31% of the beneficiaries were able to get the food," the panel was told, according to three people aware of the development.

Senior officials of the consumer affairs and food and public distribution ministry told the parliamentarians that 800,000 tonnes of foodgrain was allocated under the scheme, of which more than 638,000 tonnes were lifted by various state governments. However, only 246,000 tonnes of foodgrain were distributed among the beneficiaries of the scheme, they said.

“It is shocking that while 80% of the food allocated for the scheme was lifted by state governments, it was not distributed to the people affected by the nationwide lockdown and those who lost their jobs and walked back to their villages," said one of the persons mentioned above.

The Union government had announced on 16 May that under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, foodgrain and pulses would be distributed free of charge to 80 million migrant labourers at 5 kg per person per month for May and June. This was extended till November on Modi’s intervention.

“Out of the 8 crore beneficiaries identified by the Union government, only 2.51 crore benefited from the scheme. These people were identified because they were not registered under the National Food Security Act," one of the persons quoted said.

The scheme on free foodgrain is politically the most significant as several opposition parties, including the Congress, had flagged the need to extend the scheme.

The parliamentary committee on Monday was also briefed by officials from ministry of housing and urban affairs on affordable rental housing complexes to urban migrants and poor as a sub-scheme of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), which the Union cabinet had cleared last month.

gyan.v@livemint.com

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