In his sixth address to the nation since the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced that the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, the scheme to provide free food to nearly 80 crore poor people put in place three months ago, will be extended till the end of November.
"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," he said in a televised address.
Modi's direct reference to Chhath Puja, a festival majorly celebrated in Bihar, comes ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled in the state.
"The government will incur an expenditure of Rs 90,000 crore for extending the scheme for five months," he said.
Modi said that if the expenditure already incurred on the free food grain scheme is added to this amount, the total expenditure on providing free food grains to the poor through the coronavirus crisis will be Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
Modi spoke about the "One Nation, One Ration Card" scheme, which he said would benefit thousands of migrant workers and their families who had no fixed home or income. He credited farmers and taxpayers for bolstering India's fight against the coronavirus that has infected 5.6 lakh people in the country.
Modi's address came amid heightened tensions with China over the clashes in Ladakh that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, but he did not make any reference to it in the 17-minute speech.
Focusing his attention on India’s fight against coronavirus, Modi said while the situation in India is still under control, especially when compared to some other countries, there has been increasing negligence since the ‘Unlock 1’ was announced last month.
Modi also said that local administrations, in keeping a tight check on the monitoring and adherence to guidelines issued by the Home Ministry, should consider no one above the law. He gave the example of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov who was fined around Rs 13,000 for not wearing a mask at a public place.
“In India also the local administration have to work with the same zeal. We are all working on a mission to save 130 crore lives. Be it the village head or the Prime Minister, nobody is above the law,” Modi said.
He urged Indians to observe the same sort of discipline that they had showed during the initial days of nationwide lockdown.
“Today when we need to be more careful then carelessness is creeping in, which is quite worrying. Citizens have to again maintain the same sort of discipline that they maintained in the initial days, especially in containment zones. If people are not obeying guidelines, we have to stop them, and make them understand,” he said.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday had extended the lockdown in the containment zones till July 31. Fresh guidelines for Unlock 2.0 were also issued. Schools, colleges, cinema halls, gyms will remain shut till the end of July to curb the spread of the virus.