Modi announces free grains for poor till Chhath Puja, ‘One nation one ration card’

PM makes two major announcements, as Unlock 2 begins from July 1. Meanwhile Bihar elections may also be held by late October-early November


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a five month extension of the Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna, to distribute free grains to the poor. The extension is till the end of November, which is also the peak of the Hindu festive season with Diwali, and Chhath Puja. The Chhath Puja is celebrated six days after Diwali with great fervour in Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh, and also in states where people of Bihari origin live. This year the Chhath Puja is said to be on November 20. Coincidentally, the Bihar elections may also be held by late October-Early November, as the current state government’s term ends on November 29. 

The Prime Minister addressed the nation on the last day of the official end of the lockdown, and many citizens were hooked on to televisions screens and web portals expecting further announcements regarding Unlock 2. However the Prime Minister announced that the free grain scheme would be extended across the nation, but mentioned that the extension was till Chhath Puja. He said the festival season would begin soon, and listed major festivals such as “Shravan, Guru Purnima, Rakshabandhan, Navratri, Shri Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam, Dussehra, Deepawali, Chhath Puja,”  as also being a time when expenses mount. 

He said, “This time of festivals also increases the needs, the expenses also. Keeping all these things in mind, it has been decided that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana should now be extended till Diwali and Chhath Puja, that is, by the end of November.”



Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, 80 crore people will be given 5 kgs of wheat or rice and in addition one kg whole chana (gram). 

Interestingly it was the globally renowned economist and social worker Jean Drèze, who had in an exclusive interview to SabrangIndia editor and activist Teesta Setalvad on April 22, said that the millions in India were facing a food crisis under the Covid-19 lockdown, and highlighted the need to universalise PDS, especially in rural areas and urban slums. He had said that “Only 2/3rd of Indians that too according to the 2011 population is eligible for rations” while hundreds of millions of Indians were stuck in this lockdown without food. 

Drèze had also said that the central government was “being stingy” about opening up the FCI when grain stocks are at a historic high (77 million tons as of March which is growing because of the harvest season) and it would make “perfect economic sense, simply to allow excess grain-stock to be given to the needy rather than allowing it to be destroyed”. 

The Prime Minister, on June 30th said that the world had been been “immersed in wonder”, that in India, over “80 crores people were given 3 months ration, i.e. 5 kg of wheat or rice free to every member of the family, while fighting Corona”.

The PM said his government brought about PM Garib KalyanYojana, which announced a “package of Rs 1.75 lakh crore for the poor” as lockdown was announced. The PM added that in the past three months “Rs 31,000 crore has been transferred in the Jan Dhan accounts of almost 20 crore poor families, Rs 18,000 crore has been transferred to the bank accounts of more than 9 crore farmers and Rs 50,000 crore is being spent on PM Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, which has been started to provide employment opportunities”.

The extension of PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till November will feed more people than the collective population of many countries. “The food grains given to 80 crore people in India can feed 2.5 times America’s population, 12 times the United Kingdom’s population and twice the European Union’s population,” he said, adding that the government will spend an additional Rs 90,000 crore, as the scheme extends. Once added to the past three months’ expedition the free grain for the poor scheme has cost almost “Rs 1.5 lakh crore”. The PM said this was made possible due to the hard work put in by India’s farmers, and honest tax payers.

The second major announcement was that of a “one nation, one ration card.” This is aimed mostly at migrant workers who may move to work and live in different states. 

“A ration card is also being arranged for the whole of India i.e. ‘one nation one ration card’. The biggest benefit of this will be to those who leave their village and go elsewhere for employment or other needs” he said.

The Prime Minister said that in the coming times, the government will continue to take further steps to empower the poor and the needy. He said that economic activities will also be enhanced, as well as work towards Atmanirbhar Bharat and to being ‘vocal for local’. However, the Prime Minister did not directly address the concerns of migrant labourers who were now back in their home states but were still facing dual challenges of unemployment and hunger. 



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