Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on Tuesday, announced that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana will be extended till the end of November. In March, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the first economic package to tackle the coronavirus crisis. The scheme ends on June 30.
The scheme, earlier announced for a three-month period, covered 80 crore ration card holders. Each household was provided 5 kg of food grains (rice or wheat) and 1 kg of pulses free of cost. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled and Opposition-led governments had urged the Centre to extend it.
This was the prime minister’s sixth address to the nation since the pandemic began. “The monsoon season in India also marks the beginning of festivities,” Modi said. “Keeping in mind all the festivals that are coming up in the next few months, this scheme to provide 80 crore people with 5 kg free ration and 1 kg dal per month will now be extended till Diwali and Chhath Puja, or till the end of November.”
The scheme will cost Rs 90,000 crore to the exchequer, the prime minister said. He credited the farmers and the honest taxpayers of the country for distribution of food grains.
As soon as lockdown was announced the government announced the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, through which Rs 1.75 lakh crore was distributed to the poor families, he added. “In the last three months, Rs 31,000 crore was sent directly to people’s accounts,” Modi said. He also said the government took full efforts to ensure that no one slept on an empty stomach during the lockdown period.
Modi also spoke about the “one nation, one ration card”, saying it would benefit thousands of migrant workers and their families with no fixed income.
His address came a day after the Ministry of Home Affairs announced fresh guidelines for Unlock 2. The lockdown, first imposed in March, has been relaxed considerably over the past two months even as coronavirus cases are rising at the fastest daily rate.
Modi said timely lockdown and other decisions have saved the lives of lakhs of people in India. He said the situation in India is under control but some people have become lackadaisical in following the guidelines. “Ever since Unlock 1 started in the country, negligence in personal and social behaviour has been increasing,” he said in his address. “Earlier, we were careful about masks, do gaj doori [six feet apart] and washing our hands several times a day for 20 seconds. We are also entering the season where fever, cold is common. I request you all to take extra care.”
Without naming Brazil, Modi said even the prime minister of the country was fined for not wearing mask. “In India too we must be as careful, whether it is the prime minister or ordinary citizens, no one is above the law,” he added.
He reiterated the need to remain safe by adopting physical distancing measures and wearing masks. “I again ask all of you to stay healthy,” Modi said. “Observe all the precautions necessary to beat corona. Remember to maintain physical distancing, wear a mask or gamcha or a cloth to cover face and nose, and don’t forget to wash your hands for 20 seconds.”
India reported 18,522 new cases on Tuesday morning, taking the overall count to 5,66,840, according to the figures by the health ministry. India is only behind the United States, Brazil and Russia in total cases. More than 16,000 people have died so far.