NEW DELHI: There is a bitter post-Diwali pill for the poor, ironically coming on the heels of the fuel sweetener which has brought the salaried middle class much respite.
The Centre, it is understood, is stopping distribution of free ration under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana beyond November 30, on the plea that ‘‘the economy is reviving and our open market disposal of food grains has also been exceptionally good this year.’’
While the decision may make economic sense, it will hit the families whose members have lost employment. Such families bereft of a breadwinner were able to pull through the pandemic-induced lockout with free ration. At least, these families were able to keep starvation at bay. Despite the uptick in economic activity, many are yet to find gainful employment.
Free ration is given to 80 crore ration-card holders over and above the subsidised grains distributed through the PDS shops. The free ration comprised 5 kg free wheat/rice along with 1 kg free whole Chana to each family per month.
Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey told reporters that the PNGKAY was valid up to November 30 and there is no proposal to extend it.
Initially, free food was provided under the scheme for three months from April to June 2020, to ameliorate the distress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockout.
The scheme was first extended for five months up to November 2020. After the onset of the second phase of the pandemic, the scheme was once again rolled back for two months of May and June 2021, and then extended by five months up to November 2021.
The Congress on Saturday pleaded that the free ration scheme should be continued at least up to March 31, 2022. Its general secretary and chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surajwala asked: "Why this onslaught on the poor whose life is already hit by inflation and Corona?" Stopping the distribution of free ration on November 30 is a great injustice towards the deprived and the poor, he said.
Meanwhile, the Centre has followed up the price cut in case of petrol and diesel -- Rs 5 and Rs 10 a litre respectively -- with cut in the basic import duty on edible oils.
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