PM Modi extends free ration scheme till November, urges all to obey social distancing rules

PM Modi said that as the country gradually unlocks people are showing callousness towards social distancing norms. He urged everyone to observe all the safety precautions with utmost care.

Free ration scheme extended; farmers, tax payers hailed: Watch PM Modi's address highlights
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the free ration scheme for 800 million people until the end of November and warned against negligence in following distancing and other norms, asking authorities to strictly implement fines as the country enters Unlock 2.0 from Wednesday. The timely imposition of a lockdown on March 25 had saved lives but disregard for protocols such as wearing masks and “do gaz doori” when Unlock 1.0 began June 1 had been a cause for worry, he said in a 16-minute address to the nation on Tuesday.

The PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana will be extended for another five months to benefit the poor. The scheme was to run for three months when it was started in April. The extension will cost ?90,000 crore, adding up to a total cost of ?1.5 lakh crore, the PM said. “It has been decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana up to Diwali and Chhath Puja, till November-end,” he said.

PM Holds Meeting on Vaccine

Modi said the world was surprised that 800 million were getting free ration in India as that’s more than 2.5 times the population of the US, 12 times that of the UK and double that of the European Union. Many states and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had asked the PM for extension of the scheme.

Before his address, Modi held a high-level meeting to review progress on a possible vaccine. Doctors, nurses, healthcare staff and non-medical frontline workers as well as vulnerable sections among the general public should be prioritised for early vaccination.

“The PM said the vaccination must be affordable and universal,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a release. “No person should be left behind and that the entire process from production to vaccination should be monitored and supported in real time with the use of technology.”

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Considering the global death rate, India is in a better position compared with many other countries, the PM said. The death rate and the test positivity rate were the two numbers being closely tracked by the Centre, a senior government official told ET. The worst-affected states had been advised to focus on lowering these through extensive testing, contact tracing and increased medical infrastructure.

“While cases are bound to increase in the states where case load was high in their urban centres and with more testing now, the key is to keep the mortality low and test positivity rate within limits,” the official said. “This will further increase the recovery rate that is touching 60% as we enter Unlock 2.0. Some urban centres got the wave early, like Mumbai, Indore, and Ahmedabad and are plateauing now while some have got it late, like Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru.”

Reports from states showed that the number of fines being imposed for social distancing violations were not adequate despite several central advisories in this regard, said another official. “So the message is being reiterated by the PM himself to step up compliance,” the official said.

Modi referred to Bulgaria’s Prime Minister being fined for not wearing a mask in a public place.

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“In India too, the local administration should work with the same enthusiasm,” he said. “This is a drive to protect the lives of 130 crore countrymen. Be it a village pradhan or the Prime Minister, no one is above the law in India. Rules were followed very strictly during the lockdown. Now governments, local bodies, citizens, need to show similar alertness. Especially, we need to focus more on containment zones. Those not following the rules will need to be stopped and cautioned.”

The PM also said that the One Nation-One Ration Card scheme was being implemented in some states. The Centre has asked other states to follow suit so as to make schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana more beneficial for the poor. Modi said the nation’s top priority was to ensure no one goes hungry and thanked the farmers and taxpayers of the country for enabling the government to achieve this.
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