Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has extended the Pradhan Manti Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PM-GKAY) — a scheme that provides free ration to the lower income group families till February 2022 ahead of assembly elections which are scheduled to be held early next year.
“Though this scheme was to end in November, the UP government has decided to extend the scheme further till Holi as we are aware that despite the COVID-19 cases have come down still the misery caused by the pandemic is yet to be recovered. Therefore. the state will continue to extend its support to the 15 crore poor families of the state," the CM said while addressing the gathering in Ayodhya during the Deepotsav function.
The chief minister went on to add that in addition to what the Central government is promised in the actual scheme (5 kg of rice or wheat per person and 1 kg of Dal per household), his government will also provide 1 litre of edible oil, 1 kg each of salt and sugar for another period of three months (December to February) so that their basic kitchen needs are addressed.
The free ration scheme was launched in March 2020 by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government, after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic affected the livelihoods of thousands of people, living them in financial distress. The scheme which has benefited around 15 crore people in Uttar Pradesh, was to end on November 30 this year after the Centre has hinted to discontinue the scheme.
However, political experts and veteran journalists termed this move as an election-minded one and said it was done so that “poor people don’t make noise.” They alleged that in order to cover up its failure for the five years, these tactics are being used as people are disillusioned and angry.
“This is definitely for elections purposes and no doubt it is an election bribe to the voters as the condition of people largely poor people has not been improved. The government extended the scheme ahead of assembly elections so that people can not raise their voices or do not resist against the government failure ahead of polls,” veteran journalist Ram Dutt Tripathi told NewsClick.
Taking a jibe at Yogi government and his “concern” towards poor people, Dutt further said, “Soon after Yogi Adityanath’s speech in Ayodhya on Deepotsav where more than 9 lakh diyas were lit, a huge group of poor people were spotted collecting residual oil from earthen lamps, presumably for cooking at their homes. So instead of improving the condition of the poor and creating jobs, the government has failed to fulfil its promises in the last five years.”
Echoing similar views, Atul Chandra, a political commentator and senior journalist based in Lucknow said, “the key reason to extend the free foodgrains to the people is that Yogi government knows they haven’t delivered what they had promised to the people in four and half years. Yogi himself accepted that there are around 15 lakh poor people in the state who are in need of free ration and they will get benefit from the scheme since it was extended for another three months. The question arises that how much poverty has been reduced by the government in the last five years. Secondly, when PM says there is no need to extend the scheme further since the economy is now reviving and the demands for foodgrains has also increased in the open market sale scheme, they why Yogi extended the scheme and that too for only three months?” Atul questioned.
Raising questions over three items (sugar, salt and edible oil) included by Yogi government along with 5 kg rice/wheat and one kg lentils, he said, “these items could have included when the scheme was launched as it was also essential commodities but it is being included now. Furthermore, instead of decreasing the overall price of edible oil and other items, the government is giving for free which is a mockery of people. Also when the government admits that there is enough ration they why don’t they lower down the price of sugar and oil.”
The Centre on November 5 said there is no proposal at present to extend free foodgrains supply via PM-GKAY to provide relief to ration card holders, in view of recovery in the economy and good disposal of foodgrains in the open market under the open market sale scheme (OMSS) policy.
Initially, the additional free benefit under the PM-GKAY was provided for a period of three months (April-June 2020) to ameliorate distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the crisis continuing, the programme was extended for another five months (July-November 2020).
After the onset of the second wave of the pandemic, the PM-GKAY was once again rolled out for a period of two months (May-June 2021) and was further extended for a period of five months (July-November 2021).
Food secretary Sudhansu Pandey has said that since the economy is also reviving and OMSS disposal of foodgrains has also been exceptionally good this year. Hence, there is no proposal to extend the scheme further.
FLURRY OF ANNOUNCEMENTS BY MODI-YOGI AHEAD OF POLLS
Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2022, prime minister Narendra Modi has announced a flurry of new projects when he visited Uttar Pradesh to woo voters.
NewsClick took an overview of Modi’s recent visits to Uttar Pradesh, mainly the Purvanchal region where he recently inaugurated nine medical colleges virtually in the Siddharthnagar district, to be built at the cost of Rs 2,392 crore. The medical colleges are located in 9 districts including Etah, Hardoi, Ghazipur, Deoria and Hardoi. This was followed by the launch of Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission in Varanasi — one of the largest pan-India schemes for strengthening healthcare infrastructure in his parliamentary constituency.
He also announced infrastructure projects (roads, flyovers) worth Rs 5,200 crores for Varanasi. Besides, Kushinagar International Airport was also inaugurated by PM Modi on October 20 and development projects worth Rs 478 crores was announced from the state as a gift to the people of Purvanchal.
Meanwhile, there are a series of new projects to be inaugurated by the PM in the next few months.
Recently, Yogi Adityanath too made a similar announcement which was termed a political gimmick by political experts and people. On Saturday, he has transferred money directly to the bank accounts of the parents of around 1 crore 80 lakh bonafide students of government and aided primary schools under the Basic Shiksha Parishad through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for the purchase of school uniforms, sweaters, shoes, socks, and bags.
At present, school uniforms including shoes, socks and sweaters are provided to the students for free of cost but Yogi government has decided to send Rs 1,100 each parent to buy the uniforms. However, the parents and political experts Newsclick spoke with argued that Rs 1,100 is an insufficient amount to buy 2 pairs of uniforms, 2 pairs of sweaters, one pair of shoes, two pairs of socks and a school bag. They also claimed this move sending money to the people ahead of polls is to “lure voters”.