Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced an extension to the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana, under which India’s poor get free foodgrain, till the end of November. As many as 800 million people will be entitled to get 5kg of rice or wheat, each, every month, besides 1kg of gram per family, for five more months. The decision, Modi said, was taken in view of the post-monsoon festive season, when household demand for foodgrain typically rises.
The announcement should help reassure the poor, large numbers of whom have found themselves unable to earn a livelihood as a result of the covid-induced lockdown and the economic crisis that ensued. They have endured hardships of a kind that the country’s well-fed have little acquaintance with, and everyone should be glad Indian granaries are being opened up for such a large relief programme. The extension, Modi said, would cost the exchequer ₹90,000 crore, which would take the total expenditure on the scheme to ₹1.5 trillion. The fiscal implications of it are unclear, but the sum is well within our range of affordability. It’s the least we can do in support of the poor.