PM Modi Extends Free Ration Scheme until 30 November

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PM Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced extension of the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKY) till November, in order to help the poor tide over the economic slump caused by Covid-19 lockdown,

The scheme, started to distribute ration among the poor after the lockdown was announced, was to end today.
However, PM Modi underlined that while the timely lockdown to contain spread of Covid-19 saved many lives, people have shown negligence in personal and social behaviour since “Unlock 1”.

“Our government has decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana till Diwali and Chhat Puja, that is till November. This means the scheme that gives free ration to 80 crore people will continue till November. Government will give every member of the family 5 kg wheat or 5 kg rice apart from one kg of grams. The expansion of this scheme will cost Rs 90,000 crore (to the exchequer). If we add expenses incurred in the last three months, it is Rs 1.5 lakh crore,” Modi said in a televised address to the nation.

Earlier, the government was giving one kg daal along with 5 kg wheat or rice. This was over and above their entitlement under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), where beneficiaries have to pay between Rs 1 and Rs 3 for every kg of ration. The milling of pulses, however, had ended up delaying delivery and distribution of daal. It is expected changing it to grams will speed up delivery.

The Prime Minister said the decision was being taken as during monsoons and after there is little work barring in the agriculture sector. “In other sectors, there is a slowdown. July also marks the beginning of a string of festivities beginning from Guru Purnima to Diwali and Chhat Puja. Festivities increase necessities and expenses,” PM said.

Modi also said the government was working on a “one nation, one ration card” initiative. “Many states have even done good work in this direction. That the entire nation will have one ration card. The poor will benefit the most from this. It will help those who migrate to other states for work,” the PM said.

In his nearly 20 minute speech, PM Modi also hailed farmers and honest tax payers for their contribution in making the welfare scheme successful.

“Today, if the poor and needy are getting free ration, the credit goes to two groups: farmers and honest tax payers. Your hard work and sacrifice is the reason that the nation is able to extend this help. You have filled the graneries to ensure the poor do not go hungry. You have paid your taxes so the poor is able to fight with this pandemic. I bow to farmers and honest tax payers,” Modi said.

He also said that in coming days, the government would make more efforts to empower the poor and oppressed as also to improve the economy.

He said the PMGKY had surprised the world as the food distribution under the scheme was two-and-half times the population of the US, 12 times the population of the UK and twice the population of the EU.

He then recounted the steps government had taken to help the poor. “Everyone made an effort that no poor man sleeps hungry. Timely and sensitive decisions maximise our capability to fight any disaster. That is why after lockdown, we brought PMGKY. WE gave a package of 1.75 lakh crore. Rs 31,000 crore were deposited in the bank accounts of 20 crore poor families. The bank accounts of nine crore farmers received Rs 18,000 crore. The PM Garib Kalyan Rojgaar Abhiyan has also been started at a good pace. The government is spending Rs 50,000 crore on it,” Modi said.

The PM began his 4 pm speech expressing concern over public behaviour during the unlock phase despite the rising pandemic graph.

“We are entering into unlock 2. We are also entering the season when cases of flue increase. I urge you to take care of yourself at this time. India is in a better state compared to the world. Due to timely lockdown and other measures lakhs of lives have been saved. But we also see that since unlock 1, carelessness in personal and public behaviour is increasing. Initially we were very alert about use of masks, hygiene and social distancing. But today, when we need more alertness, carelessness is a matter of grave concern,” PM Modi said.

He added that public needed to show the same seriousness in adherence to rules as they showed during the lockdown. “We need the same alertness now, especially in containment zones. We have to really focus on them. We need to question, stop and make understand whoever is not following rules,” Modi said.

The PM then narrated an incident where the prime minister of a country had been fined Rs 13,000 for not wearing a mask at a public place. “In India also authorities need to work like that. From Gram Pradhan to Pradhan Mantri, no one is above the rules,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister was, perhaps, referring to media reports of a fine of 300 leva (170 USD) announced by Bulgaria’s Health Department on premier Boyko Borisov for visiting a monastery without a mask