Lucknow: In the first decision on the second day of his second consecutive term, Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Yogi Adityanath extend the Pradhan Manti Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PM-GKAY), which was launched by the Centre during the COVID-19 outbreak and provides free monthly ration to lower-income group families, on Saturday by three more months in the state till June 30.
“We have decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana from March 31 till June 30. It will benefit 15 crore people of the state,” Adityanath said adding that the decision will be implemented in a transparent manner. The government will spend Rs 3,270 crore on extending the scheme.
The scheme, which provides 5 kg of wheat and rice and 1 kg of chana, was supposed to last till March. But keeping in mind the narrative it played in the recent Assembly elections, the state government decided to continue it. The first two phases lasted from April to November 2020. Subsequently, it was revived from May to November 2021 and from December to March 2022.
However, beneficiaries of the scheme told Newsclick that the quantity of ration is not sufficient to last for a month. “First, the state government is not doing a favour by providing free ration to us. If it is really concerned for the poor, why doesn’t it provide jobs under MGNREGA. Either people do not have job cards or the ones who have hardly get any work under MGNREGA. What we need is a permanent source of livelihood, not free ration,” Sunil Ghanshyam said.
Though political observers see the decision as a political stunt with an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Badri Narayan, director, GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, told Newsclick, “It was a good and much-needed decision. The effects of the pandemic are not over yet; needy people, including migrant, unorganised and domestic workers, are still struggling to make their ends meet. It will take time for them to recover. Therefore, the social welfare schemes should be continued.”
Besides, the free ration scheme of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government gave it a “big boost in the Assembly election,” Narayan, who has authored the book Republic of Hindutva: How the Sangh Is Reshaping Indian Democracy, added. “With the help of this scheme and other welfare schemes, the BJP has been able to mobilise poor voters cutting across caste and community lines.”
Ajay Rai, a Chandauli-based communist leader who has been working among weaker sections for the last several decades, told Newsclick, “Earlier, a labourer was given a handful of food grains as wages after finishing work. He never complained about low wages and was rather happy. The BJP government is applying the same tactic by giving free ration to the poor, which is very less to sustain for a month. But the government knows that the poor would never complain because it is free.”
Rai believes that since the free ration scheme “proved to be a game changer in the Assembly polls, the BJP might extend it till the 2024 Lok Sabha election”.
Dinkar Kapoor, an activist based in Sonbhadra, said that the BJP is expected to put the non-Yadav OBC and Dalit voters on high priority to consolidate the two communities ahead of the Lok Sabha election. “Mostly, these communities are availing the free ration facility and the BJP knew how to make them happy. However, free welfare schemes will not be helpful for a long time,” he told Newsclick.