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New Delhi, Nov 29 – In a significant move aimed at extending welfare benefits to the marginalized sections, the Union Cabinet has given its approval for the five-year extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY). The scheme, initially introduced during the Covid pandemic, will now continue beyond January 1, 2024, ensuring that identified families across the country receive 5 kilograms of free food grains every month. This initiative is expected to benefit a staggering 81 crore Indians, with the central government committing a total expenditure of Rs 11.80 lakh crore over the next five years.

Addressing the media on Wednesday, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur highlighted the significance of the extension, emphasizing that Antyoday families will continue to receive 35 kilograms of free food grains monthly. This extension aims to provide essential support to those in need and strengthen the social safety net.

In addition to the PMGKY extension, the Cabinet approved a central sector scheme designed to empower women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) by providing them with drones. Under this scheme, 15,000 selected women’s SHGs will receive drones from 2023-24 to 2025-2026. The drones are intended for rental services to farmers, enhancing agricultural practices and livelihoods in rural areas.

Minister Thakur highlighted the significant role of women in the country, stating that there are approximately 10 crore sisters who are members of 89 lakh self-help groups. The drone initiative aims to leverage technology for the benefit of rural women, contributing to agricultural activities and economic empowerment.

Furthermore, the Cabinet approved the terms of reference (ToR) for the 16th Finance Commission. The ToR includes crucial aspects such as the sharing of central taxes between the Centre and states and among states. The Chairman and members of the Commission will be decided in due course, with the 16th Finance Commission expected to submit its report by October 2025.

This comprehensive set of decisions by the Union Cabinet reflects the government’s commitment to inclusive development, providing support to vulnerable populations and fostering economic empowerment in both rural and urban settings.