The Congress on Tuesday alleged that the Modi government has reduced the ration of 81 crore poor people by 50 percent in the new year. The opposition party said 81 crore Indians who were eligible for 10 kilograms of foodgrains will now get only five kilograms.
“The year 2023 began with the depressing news that PM Modi’s Cabinet has discontinued the Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Kalyan Yojana (PMGAKY), which provided an additional 5 kgs of food grains to beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA),” said AICC general secretary Jairam Ramesh.
He said with this sudden reduction of rations by 50 percent, the prime minister has taken this “regressive” decision with no consultation with state governments nor any discussion in Parliament.
The Centre had undertaken the distribution of free food grains for 28 months under PMGAKY in view of the Covid pandemic but the scheme ended in December. However, the Cabinet has decided that subsidised foodgrains distributed to about 81.35 crore beneficiaries under NFSA will be given free in 2023.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal has said 5 kg of food grains per person to Priority Households (PHH) beneficiaries and 35 kg per household to Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) beneficiaries (poorest of the poor) will be provided free of cost for the year 2023 and stressed that it showed the “sensitivity” of the Modi government.
But Ramesh on Tuesday accused the Modi government of “falsely trumpeting” the free 5 kg of grains under the NFSA as a historic decision benefiting the poor.
“The main beneficiary, however, is the Modi government which will save over Rs. 1 lakh crore, and not ration card holders whose spending will increase,” he said in a statement.
The Congress leader alleged that now a family of five is forced to spend around Rs 750 more every month, which is around Rs 9,000 more every year.
He also dubbed the prime minister as a “master of U-turn”, alleging that he opposed schemes like MGNREGA and NFSA during UPA but now takes credit for them.
The Modi government was forced to provide extra rations during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the deep economic distress, he said and claimed a similar situation is prevailing today.
Every basic necessity is more expensive than it was at the time of the UPA government, incomes of the majority of Indians have not risen, and unemployment is at a record high, he claimed.
Ramesh said the “Hunger Watch” survey finds that 80% of people report some form of food insecurity.
India now ranks 107 out of 121 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2022, he said. “The Modi government needs to be reminded that providing rations under NFSA is not a gift to the people of India, but their right,” Ramesh said.
“The Indian National Congress calls on the Modi government to use the Rs 1 lakh crore saved by discontinuing PMGAKY to strengthen the food security system in three ways. First, nearly 10 crore people who should hold ration cards are excluded because of the inordinate delay in the 2021 Census. They must be included immediately,” he said.
The Congress leader alleged that the Centre has failed to respond to the Supreme Court order that rations should be provided to all migrant workers even if they do not hold ration cards. “It must immediately comply,” he stressed.
“The NFSA provides Rs. 6,000 per child to women as maternity entitlements. However, the government illegally limits this to Rs 5,000 for the first child only. The Modi government must stop violating the NFSA immediately,” the former Union minister said.
“In 2013, CM Modi opposed the NFSA. From MGNREGA to the NFSA, CM Modi opposed pro-people UPA policies, but PM Modi takes credit for them. He truly is the U-Turn Ustad,” Ramesh alleged.