The scope and budget of cheap ration schemes rose since Independence but the effect it should have had on the poor remained limited due to ineffective delivery systems and selfish elements, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday. Over the years, food storage kept increasing, but starvation and malnutrition did not decrease in that ratio, Modi said, after a virtual interaction with the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) beneficiaries in Gujarat.
The PM-GKAY food security scheme is helping crores of poor people during the coronavirus pandemic which has helped lessen the worries of the poor, Modi said in his address marking the completion of five years in office by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. He said free ration has been made available to more than 80 crore people under the PM-GKAY scheme during the coronavirus pandemic with an expenditure of more than Rs 2 lakh crore.
The government used new technology to make the food grain delivery system to the poor more effective, the PM added. "After independence, almost every government had talked about providing cheap food to the poor. The scope and budget of cheap ration schemes increased year after year, but the effect it should have had remained limited. The country's food reserves increased, but hunger and malnutrition did not decrease in that proportion.
"Some sickness came into the system, some selfish elements entered. To change this situation, after 2014, work started in a new way, and the help of new technology was taken to remove crores of fake beneficiaries and link ration cards with Aadhaar cards and encourage digital technology in government fair price shops," he said. Citing the measures taken by his government, the PM said they ensured that no citizen went hungry despite the biggest calamity of the century striking when livelihood was threatened and business suffered due to lockdowns. "The world has acknowledged the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. Free ration has been made available to more than 80 crore people during the pandemic with an expenditure of more than 2 lakh crore rupees," he said.
Modi said the empowerment of the poor is a top priority of his government. "Today, the country is spending lakhs of crores on infrastructure, but at the same time, it is also setting new benchmarks to improve the quality of life of the common man, he said. The government is making efforts to provide all possible help to citizens during the pandemic, he said. "Schemes of the Central government are helping the poor attain empowerment through better access to health and education that in turn help them live a dignified life. Empowerment is also attained by increasing the health, education, facilities, and dignity," the PM said.
Modi said schemes like the Ayushman Yojana, Mudra Yojna, Svanidhi Yojna and measures like granting reservations for Economically Weaker sections, construction of roads, providing free gas and electricity connections "are giving direction to a dignified life for the poor and becoming a medium of empowerment". He said free medical treatment being provided under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana will empower them with better health. "When a reservation is ensured for weaker sections, it empowers them through education. Better road connectivity, gas and electricity connection empower such people who then think about their progress and the country's progress," he said. Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, Modi said that despite the "biggest crisis of the century" affecting the entire humanity, his government did not let people sleep hungry. "Despite hunger becoming a massive problem in many countries of the world, India identified the crisis and worked on it from the very first day of the pandemic," he said.
"This is why Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana is being praised across the world, and big experts are praising that India is providing free foodgrains to more than 80 crore people during the pandemic. The country is spending more than Rs 2 lakh crore on this. Our only aim is: none of our Indian brothers and sisters remains hungry," he said.
Modi said unlike the past development is no longer limited to big cities and to select areas like flyovers, roads and metros now. In Gujarat, nearly 3.5 crore people are benefiting by free ration, he said. The prime minister also lauded the Gujarat government for giving priority to lakhs of labourers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic from other states working in Gujarat though many of whom did not possess ration cards or the cards of their native states, to avail of benefits of this scheme. "Gujarat is among those states that implemented the One Nation-One Ration Card scheme first of all," he said.
"Gujarat understands very well how life changes when the common man gets opportunities and facilities reaching their homes. From facing a water crisis, Gujarat is now closer to taking tap water across all the houses under the 'Jal Se Nal' scheme," he said. He said Gujarat continues to get the benefits of the "double engine" governments. )Gujarat is also ruled by the BJP). Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also attended one such programme in Dahod along with his deputy Nitin Patel. A public participation programme was launched in Gujarat to create awareness about the scheme. During his interaction with beneficiaries of the PM-GKAY via video conferencing, Modi spoke to one Narsinhbhai from Vadnagar, the hometown of the PM. Modi asked Narsinhbhai whether he was satisfied with the scheme. "I am totally satisfied. This meets our family's needs. And the money that is saved on foodgrains is used in other works," Narsinhbhai said. When Modi asked whether he was getting other benefits of the scheme, Narsinhbhai replied saying he was getting benefits under the Garib Kalyan Yojana.
Nayanaben Joshi, a widow who works as a sweeper at a government school in Rajkot, told the PM that she was getting all the benefits. When Modi asked if she faced any trouble in availing of the benefits and whether there are any middlemen, Joshi said she was satisfied with the scheme. Under the scheme, the government is providing five-kg free wheat and rice in addition to the quota of wheat at Rs 2 per kg, rice at Rs 3 per kg, which is almost double the amount of the ration being provided to card-holders before this scheme. He said this scheme will continue till Diwali. Modi said lakhs of families in Gujarat are getting free ration under the PM-GKAY. "Free ration reduces distress of the poor and gives them confidence. The poor should feel that whatever the calamity, the country is with them. Many such works are going on in the entire country including Gujarat due to which the confidence of every countryman and every region is increasing today. And this self-confidence is the formula to overcome every challenge, to achieve every dream," Modi said.
He said as the country is moving rapidly towards the vaccination milestone of 50 crore, Gujarat is also nearing the milestone of 3.5 crore vaccine doses. In his speech, Modi appealed to people to get vaccinated, wear masks and avoid the crowd as much as possible.
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