Prime Minister Narendra Modi extends free food grain program for the poor until end of November
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday extended until the end of November his government’s program to provide free food grains to 800 million poor people in the country.
In his address to the nation, the Prime Minister also pledged the deployment of the One Nation, One Ration Card program, which has been in the works for a few years now, to help migrant workers gain access to free food grains. anywhere. in the countryside.
The opposition, in particular Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, had asked the prime minister to also speak out on issues such as the alleged occupation of Indian territory by China and the increase in fuel prices 22 times over. over the past three months. However, the PM avoided these topics.
In his speech, which at 17 minutes was his shortest since March, the prime minister focused on announcing the five-month extension of Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, and also lamented the lax attitude shown by the people to follow Covid-19 precautions. like wearing masks during “Unlock 1”. He called on local authorities to be stricter in the application of such restrictions.
Modi noted that he was extending the food program because the festival season was approaching when “needs as well as expenses increase.” He said the program would run until the end of November and specifically mentioned the Chhath Puja festival on two occasions. Diwali takes place on November 14 and Chhath Puja, Bihar’s biggest festival, takes place on November 20. Bihar must go to the polls before that.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told Kolkata her government was extending free food grain programs until June 2021.
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The extension of 5 kg of free food grains to all beneficiaries of eligible ration cards, estimated at around 800 million, for the next five months, will require almost 20 million tonnes (mt) of additional grain. This will be beyond the usual PDS (Public Distribution System) requirement of 53-54 mt under the Food Act.
Under the first phase of Garib Kalyan Yojana, 12 tonnes of cereals were allocated in April, May and June. In total, according to sources, around 32 tonnes of additional grain has been allocated for free for distribution through the PDS this year as part of Covid-19 relief.
The central government is expected to incur an additional expenditure of around Rs 1,400 billion due to the free distribution of food grains in two phases. This will be in addition to the 2020-2021 food subsidy projection of Rs 2.52 trillion, which also includes Rs 1.36 trillion in additional loans from the National Small Savings Fund.
Critics said the government extending free grain and pulse distribution programs for the next five months was a reluctant admission that despite all the opening speeches, economic activity in the country was not going to pick up very much. soon, and the distress situation would continue for some time.