Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to continue the supply of 5 kg free foodgrains to “priority households” for another three months. Gandhi also demanded that the Centre issue temporary ration cards to all such households to address the hunger crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nearly three months since the country went into a strict lockdown, millions are at risk of slipping into poverty,” Gandhi wrote in her letter to the prime minister. “The adverse impact on livelihoods has led to chronic food insecurity. In light of the current situation, food entitlements must be expanded to address the hunger crisis facing some of the most vulnerable people in our country.”
“The Union government must consider extending provision for free food grains for a further period of three months, i.e., from July-September 2020,” she added. “Several states have requested for the same.”
The Congress president added that several poor households remain excluded from the Public Distribution System and asked the government to issue them temporary ration cards.
The Centre had announced provision of free food to migrant workers in the second tranche of its five-part Rs 20-lakh-crore economic package to rebuild the economy battered by a seven-week-long lockdown. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that free foodgrains would be distributed even to those people who do not currently fall under the Food Security Act.
“Free food grains supply to all migrants for the next 2 months – for non-card holders, they shall be given 5 kg wheat or rice per person and 1 kg chana per family per month for the next two months,” Sitharaman had said, adding that the states will distribute it but the Centre will bear the expenses of Rs 3,500 crore.
The implementation of the nationwide lockdown in March triggered an exodus of migrant workers from cities. Stranded without jobs and the means of transportation to reach home, they began difficult journeys on foot and bicycles in the scorching heat before the Centre started special trains from May 1. More than 170 people have died in accidents on the way. Some died from the sheer exhaustion of walking in the sun.