Govt to continue free food scheme till November, announces PM Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a key government scheme for free food grain to more than 80 crore poor people will be extended until November during his address to the nation on Tuesday.

PM Modi’s announcement came during his address to the nation as the country’s coronavirus disease (Covid-19) tally surged beyond 5.66 lakh.

“This time of festivals also increases needs and expenses. 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,” PM Modi said in his sixth address to the nation since the coronavirus pandemic started.

“More than Rs 90,000 crore will be spent in this expansion of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. If you add the expenses of the last three months to it, then it becomes almost one and a half lakh crore rupees,” he added.

Before this, Modi once again stressed about following rules like wearing masks and following social distancing norms and said nobody is above rules. PM Modi said a timely lockdown and other decisions saved many lives but people have been negligent in their personal and social behaviour since Unlock 1.

“Earlier, we were very cautious about masks, maintaining a two-yard distance, washing hands several times a day for 20 seconds,” the Prime Minister said during the virtual address.

“The rules were followed very seriously during the lockdown. Now governments, local body entities, citizens of the country need to show the same vigilance again,” he added.

Earlier addresses

Ahead of his address, PM Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the preparations for vaccination against Covid-19 as and when a vaccine is available.

Modi had last addressed the nation on May 12 when he had announced a Rs 20 lakh crore financial package to boost the economy recovering from coronavirus-induced lockdown.

On March 19, the Prime Minister had announced a day’s Janta Curfew for March 22. He had announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on March 24.

PM Modi asked the nation on April 3, in a video message, to light lamps and clang utensils the next day for frontline workers. He had then extended the lockdown period till May 3 in an address on April 14.

The lockdown was further extended till May 17 by the home ministry. The government on Monday announced the month-long Unlock 2 from Wednesday and issued guidelines further easing the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

However, schools, colleges, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, bars, assembly halls and Metro services will remain closed.

Border stand-off

PM Modi’s address to the nation comes in the middle of a weeks-old standoff with China at several locations along their disputed border following the June 15 clash in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

The ties between the two countries came under severe strain after Chinese troops killed the Indian Army soldiers and injured many in the violent clash. India has since increased patrolling and deployed troops since the stand-off where India and Chinese soldiers came to blows.

Amid an opposition onslaught over the border face-off with China, the Prime Minister has reiterated more than once that no Indian territory is under enemy’s control and that there are no Chinese outposts on Indian land in Ladakh.

PM Modi had also talked about the Galwan Valley tension in his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat on June 28 and said that Indian soldiers had given a befitting reply to those who were coveting the country’ territory.

Modi’s address also comes in the backdrop of India’s ban on 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, WeChat, Shein and UC Browser, citing privacy and security concerns amid worsening relations between the two neighbouring countries.