The record fall of the Indian economy pegged at 23.9% in the April-June quarter is widely expected to be revised further downwards, once the impact of the lockdown on the smaller companies and the informal sector (50% of the economy) is more accurately factored in. Even the current assessment suggests how badly the poorer sections of society would have been impacted, including hits on their food security.
In this context schemes like the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan — providing free foodgrains and pulses to migrant workers not covered under National Food Security Act or State Public Distribution Scheme — will be very important. So, news reports that only 33% of foodgrain allocation under the scheme was actually distributed to intended beneficiaries upto August 31, is deeply worrying. States have shown very diverse performances in lifting the foodgrains in the first place, as also in finally distributing them.
As long as the economy continues to underperform, jobs continue to be short, opening up remains subpar, this new reality comes on top of the chronic under-nutrition already suffered by the poorest Indians, particularly children. Identifying what has gone wrong with the Atma Nirbhar Bharat foodgrain scheme for migrants will help us ensure that other schemes are better designed and implemented. Otherwise they will all disappoint.