Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
PM announces free ration for 800mn people till Nov
Modi says the state governments will not have to spend money on procuring ration for the poor any more
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced that the central government will provide free vaccine doses for all citizens above the age of 18 till Diwali even as he asserted that the Coronavirus disease is the biggest epidemic to strike in the last century and the country tackled it on a war footing.
“Today, the central government has decided that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana will be extended till Diwali. During this time to crisis, the government is with the poor. Free food grains will be available in fixed quantity every month for over 800 million citizens till November,” said PM Modi during his address to the nation.
He added that the state governments will not have to spend money on procuring ration for the poor.
As part of the scheme, 5 kg free rice or wheat are provided to each member of the family, along with providing 1 kg pulses per month, said an official familiar with the matter.
The government announced a similar measure last year and claimed a total of ₹1.5 lakh crore were set aside for the scheme.
The scheme restarted in April this year was announced for the months of May and June at an estimated expenditure of ₹26,000 crore. The initiative will now continue till November to people in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In October 2020, PM Modi first announced that India has been providing free ration worth about ₹ 1.5 lakh crore to about 800 million poor for over seven months amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Modi’s address on Monday comes at a time when India continues to fight the second wave of the pandemic and is staring at a possible third wave of infections.
He has been holding review meetings with state governments and central government officials regarding the vaccination drive, testing, supply of oxygen etc.
In his previous address to the country on April 20, Modi ruled out the possibility of a second nationwide lockdown and said that states should opt for it as a last resort.
India had witnessed its worst health crisis during this month as daily cases and deaths spiked to an all time high which led to a near collapse of the health infrastructure.
Hospitals across grappled with severe shortage of oxygen supplies, beds, vaccine doses and essential anti-viral drugs such as Remdesivir.
However, the situation has since improved as several states and Union territories (UTS) imposed lockdown or lockdown-like restrictions to arrest the spread of the viral disease.
And starting Monday, states such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh etc- once worsthit by the pandemic- have started the unlocking process with a view to revive their economies.
However, states like Haryana, Punjab and Sikkim have announced that their Covid lockdowns will continue till June 14.
India continued to improve its Covid count with the country Monday recording 1.06 lakh cases, a drop of 12 per cent from Sunday’s 114 thousand infections -- the lowest in two months. The country’s caseload now stands at 28.9 million.
The positivity rate, the number of positive cases identified per 100, has dropped to 6.33 per cent. India has been reporting positivity rate below 10 per cent for 14 consecutive days now.
During the address on Monday, the Prime Minister also strongly defended his government’s vaccination policy and announced that the Centre would take back control of vaccination from states and provide free vaccines to all over the next two weeks.
“Crores of people in India have been vaccinated free of cost. And from now, citizens above the age of 18 will also be inoculated for free.”
“In the last one year, India launched two made-in-india vaccines. Today more than 23 crore vaccine doses administered... Vaccine supply will be increasing in the coming days. Seven companies in the country are producing different vaccines, 3 vaccine trials at advanced stage,” he added.