The stock markets ended flat today as expectations were high – what was the PM going to talk about today at 4 PM? Speculation was rife that it might have to do with China or about the unlocking or maybe even about a vaccine.
But this was probably the shortest address by Modi – all of 15 minutes. And it was about three things – people need to remain cautious as Covid remains, food distribution under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna yojana to be extended till November and One Nation-One Ration card. That’s it!
There were many who were left wanting – many of us wanted to hear him talk about how the Govt is going all out to control the pandemic – when the leader of a country tells you that he is working on getting things under control, it helps assuage fears and anxiety. What we did hear is that our death rates are much lower than so many other countries, which is not assuring in any way! Sri Lanka has managed to keep the Covid under control, reporting only 11 deaths till now.
Then there was no word on the ongoing impasse at the Indio-Chinese borders. The skirmishes with China has got everyone roiled up and it was widely expected that he would tell the nation more about this, assure us that they are working towards diffusing the crisis. But there was a deafening silence on that front.
What Modi did talk about was the lackadaisical way in which people across the country are behaving post the partial opening up, throwing all caution to wind, not wearing a mask and not following social distancing norms. He rightly urged people to follow all the safety procedures.
The address today was mainly about the ration distribution – in the first phase, which ended today, Modi said some 80 crore people across the country were given free rice and grains – the largest such distribution program in the world. He said that this program was now being extended till November, wherein during all the festivals people will have at least some food at home. He said this extension of 5 months will cost the ex-chequer Rs.90,000 crore and adding the bill of the previous three months, he said the total cost is Rs.1.5 lakh crore.
This is a move which many said needed to be extended and it’s a good move – we only urge that implementation, which earned a lot of flak, gets corrected this time around. As we said, the intent is good but the implementation is askew.
But the biggest thing was – One nation, one ration card scheme. This will get implemented by March 2021 and was a very wide spread demand and especially, in the wake of the mass migration, it’s a much needed correction. Except, it won’t help any time now but we take heart in the intent again – at least this pandemic will help this become a reality.
This ration card scheme will enable migrant workers and their family members to access PDS benefits from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) in the country. Currently, the ration card holder can get grains from only the FPS in his/her locality but once it becomes universal card, someone living in Bihar, when he/she migrates to Mumbai, can get foodgrains on this ration card from any FPS in the metro or anywhere within India. The beneficiary will be recognised through biometric authentication on electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices installed at the FPSs.
Well, today’s address was short and sweet but it left neither a lingering taste nor a feeling of fulfillment.