The Union government’s scheme to provide 5 kg of free foodgrains per month to 81 crore Indians will be extended for another five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday. Addressing a poll rally in poll-bound Chhattisgarh’s Durg district, Mr. Modi said that the free ration scheme, slated to end this December, would get an extension.
The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana was introduced in 2020 as a pandemic relief measure, providing 5 kg of free food grains per beneficiary per month in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised food grain they were entitled to under the National Food Security Act. In December 2022, as PMGKAY came to an end after multiple extensions, the Union Cabinet decided to make NFSA rations free for one year. That will now be extended further, the PM announced.
“Today, I want to tell the poor brothers and sisters of the country from the land of Durg that I have decided that the BJP government will now extend the scheme of providing free ration to 80 crore poor people of the country for the next five years,” he said.
‘Poor are the biggest caste’
The PM said that he could take such a decision because he himself came from a poor family, claiming that his government had taken 13.5 crore people out of poverty across the country and was empowering them. Referring to the poor as the “biggest caste [group] in my country”, he alleged that some political parties were dissolving the poison of casteism in the air, an oblique reference to demands for a caste census made by the Congress and its allies in recent times.
“But this is the unity of the poor, when the poor have accepted the poor as their only caste, then rats have started running in the stomachs of these political parties. They have started to feel that if this one community of poor gets together, if it becomes a force, then the shops of those spreading lies will be closed. To run the shop of such political parties, they have played new games. Now they have started a new game of dividing the poor, breaking the unity of the poor, destroying the dreams of the poor, making the poor fight among themselves,” he said.
On the sidelines of an event to release the BJP’s poll manifesto for Chhattisgarh in Raipur on Friday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had reportedly said that while the BJP had never opposed a caste census, decisions had to be taken after careful thought, adding that the party refrained from doing politics over the issue.
‘Congress abusing OBCs’
At the Durg rally, Mr. Modi claimed that the Congress was abusing him because he hailed from the other backward classes (OBCs), and was also abusing the entire OBC community because of him. Without naming former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Modi recalled the defamation case in which Mr. Gandhi had been convicted for making a remark about the ‘Modi’ surname during a political rally in 2019. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court stayed the conviction of the Wayanad MP in the case.
“After all, why is Congress abusing the Sahu community of Chhattisgarh? Why is the Congress calling the entire Sahu community thieves? A Congress leader, I don’t want to name him, keeps abusing Modi along with abusing the entire OBC community. The entire community has been called a thief, the court has imposed the punishment and even the Supreme Court has not waived the punishment. The chance of going to jail has just been extended for a while. The OBC society of Chhattisgarh and the OBC society of the entire country will never forgive such a Congress,” he said.
The Sahus are an OBC community and the largest caste group in Chhattisgarh, and also belong to the Teli community that Mr. Modi himself hails from.
In his second visit to the State in the past three days, Mr. Modi also referred to the “tees taka kaka (30% commission uncle)” remark he had used to target Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s governance record in Kanker on Thursday. He also referred to the Enforcement Directorate’s latest claim that it was probing an alleged ₹508 crore payment by the scam-accused 'Mahadev' betting app’s promoters to Mr. Baghel.
“The Congress party here, the government here, and the Chief Minister here should tell the people of Chhattisgarh what their relations are with the accused of this scam sitting in Dubai. After all, why has the Chief Minister here become nervous after this money has been seized?” Mr. Modi said.