Modi announces free ration for 800mn people for 5 more months, warns of negligence in following health safety rules
NEWDELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced the extension of the provision of free rations to 800 million people under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for five more months, until November, at an additional cost of ₹90,000 crore. Modi also reiterated the government’s commitment to institute the “one nationone ration card” system to enable migrants to access the public distribution system (PDS) anywhere in the country, asking state governments to take the proposal forward.
In an address to the nation, PM Modi also spoke about the need to maintain all precautions against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) — social distancing, wearing of masks and regular handwashing — and pointed out that there has been an increase in “negligence” after Unlock 1.0 saw the country opening up in the past month.
While claiming that the announcement was a result of pressure from Congress president Sonia Gandhi — who had urged the government to extend the scheme — the Congress criticised the PM’s speech for not addressing the situation at the India-China border, and for failing to come up with more specific announcements on economic revival and employment creation.
The announcement also took a political turn, as the Opposition accused the PM of being motivated by Bihar elections, due at the end of the year, and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announcing the provision of free ration in her state up to June 2021 — elections are due in West Bengal in the middle of next year.
The PM’s focus in the speech remained on Covid-19 and the extension of the welfare scheme.
“Under the lockdown, our national priority was to ensure that no one who was poor went hungry. The Centre, state governments and civil society worked hard to ensure no one was hungry,” Modi said.
In this backdrop, he mentioned the PMGKAY — the ₹1.7 lakh crore government package announced at the end of March right after the lockdown for three months — and how it had benefited 800 million people.