The Union government’s scheme to provide five kilograms of free ration every month to 80 crore poor citizens will be extended for another five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday.

Modi made the announcement while campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party at an election rally in Chhattisgarh. The state will vote in the Assembly elections on November 7 and November 17.

The Centre had launched the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana in March 2020 in the wake of the first phase of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown to help citizens whose sources of income got adversely affected. The scheme was subsequently extended multiple times.

In December 2022, the government had announced that the National Food Security Act will subsume the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till December 31, 2023.

Addressing a rally in Durg district, the prime minister on Saturday said that he could take the decision to extend the scheme since he himself came from a poor family. Modi claimed that his government has helped 13.5 crore people rise above the poverty line in the last five years.

He alleged that Congress treats the poor as a “vote bank” and accused the party of indulging in caste-based politics. “Now they have started a new game of dividing the poor, breaking the unity of the poor, destroying the dreams of the poor, making the poor fight among themselves,” Modi alleged.

Also read: What free food rations hide: A rollback of social security in India