The Union government on Friday decided to provide free foodgrains to over 80 crore beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act from January 1, 2023 till the end of the year.

The government has decided to merge the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana with the National Food Security Act till December 31, 2023.

From January 1, a total of 5 kilograms of foodgrains for every member of priority households and 35 kilograms for each household covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana will be provided.

Under the National Food Security Act, each state is expected to frame criteria to define priority households. The Antyodaya Anna Yojana, aimed at the poorest of poor citizens, entitles households to receive 35 kilograms of free foodgrains irrespective of the number of members

The government said that the decision, taken during a Cabinet meeting led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would benefit 81.35 crore people.

At a briefing, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said that the Centre will spend more than Rs 2 lakh crore on food subsidies under the National Food Security Act and other welfare schemes, to remove the financial burden on the poor.

“This is a historic decision that reflects the sensitivity of the prime minister towards the beneficiaries of welfare schemes,” Goyal said.

The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana was started in 2020 during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was implemented in seven phases, and was last extended on September 28.

According to the Business Standard, the government has so far spent Rs 1.80 lakh crore on the distribution of free ration to the poor.