The Congress on Tuesday sought to take credit for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to extend the free ration scheme for 80 crore people till November-end.
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said the announcement came in response to Sonia Gandhi’s letter to Modi on June 22 in which she had requested him to provide free food grains to the poor for three more months from July in view of the prevailing Covid-19 situation across the country.
“It is important to remember that this extension of the scheme was suggested multiple times by the Congress president in her letter to the Prime Minister,” Shrinate said, addressing a virtual news conference.
In her letter to the Prime Minister on June 22, Gandhi had also said that millions of Indians are at risk of slipping into poverty due to the strict nationwide lockdown for the past three months.
Gandhi had recalled that the provision for supply of 5 kg free food grains per person every month to Antyodaya Anna Yojana and priority households under the National Food Security Act from April-June in addition to regular entitlements was announced at the beginning of the lockdown.
The government had also announced free food grains of 5kg per person every month for migrants not covered under any central or state public distribution system (PDS) scheme for May and June.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had in May announced providing 800,000 tonne of emergency ration for migrants under the union government’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat programme for distribution during May and June.
“The union government must consider extending the provision for free food grains for a further period of three months i.e. from July-September 2020. Several states have requested for the same,” Gandhi had said.
“Nearly three months since the country went into a strict lockdown, millions of Indians are at risk of slipping into poverty. The adverse impact on livelihoods has led to chronic food insecurity for both our urban and rural poor. In light of the current situation, food entitlements must be expanded to address the hunger crisis facing some of the most vulnerable people in the country,” she wrote in the letter.
Following Gandhi’s request, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, in its meeting on June 23 had called upon the central government to extend the scheme of providing free food grains till September.
“The CWC also requests that the special provision for 5kg additional food grain per person per month for migrants not entitled to food grains under any other central or state scheme be extended till September as well,” said a resolution adopted at the meeting.
Both Gandhi and the CWC had also urged the government that temporary ration cards may be provided to all those currently not falling in any beneficiary lists so that the widest possible base for these entitlements can be targeted.
In a televised address to the nation, Modi announced extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), a free ration scheme, for 80 crore people across the country till end of November, costing the exchequer Rs 90,000 crore more.
Under the scheme, initially rolled out for three months, five kg of wheat or rice and one kg of pulses per month was to be given free of cost to the poor.
The PM also said the government was working on a “one nation, one ration card” initiative.