NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday thanked honest tax payers who have helped finance the free food grain scheme, a major humanitarian effort in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
Modi said if the government has been able to give free food grain to the needy, its credit goes to two classes of people -- farmers and honest tax payers.
“Your effort is your contribution because of which the nation is able to offer this welfare scheme. You have filled our granaries that is why the kitchen in every poor household is active. You have paid taxes honestly and fulfilled your responsibility that is why the poor in our country are able to confront such a big challenge facing us. Today, along with every poor person, I express my gratitude to our farmers and tax payers," Modi said.
He appreciated the states that did well on humanitarian work and reassured that work on the ‘one nation one ration card’ plan was afoot so that migrant workers can get their entitled food grain wherever they are.
Modi on Tuesday extended the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana that offers free food grain and cash to the poor and vulnerable by five months. The programme was announced on 26 March by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a day after Modi announced the first phase of the lockdown on 25 March, for three months till end of June. The Prime Minister said the scheme will cover 80 crore poor.
The prime minister's statement, lauding taxpayers, comes at a time when the central government and many states have gradually hiked taxes on petrol and diesel when oil prices declined in global markets in recent months. The Indian basket of crude oil price which had fallen below an average of $20 a barrel in April has recovered since. On Tuesday, petrol and diesel were ruling above ₹80 a litre in the national capital, a large part of which is central and state taxes.
Modi has relied on the economically well-off for financing welfare schemes and had in the past raised the surcharge on income tax. The government had earlier considered an inheritance tax but dropped the idea because of complexities involved in implementing it.
Till end of November, the free food grain scheme is expected to cost the exchequer ₹1.5 trillion. “We will need ₹90,000 crore (for the extension till November). If we take the last three months too, this scales ₹1.5 trillion," Modi said. (Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story)