Modi an­nounces free ra­tion for 800mn peo­ple for 5 more months, warns of neg­li­gence in fol­low­ing health safety rules

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - NEWS - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

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.

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