Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend by three months the supply of 5 kg of free food grains to each member of "priority households" and poor families adversely impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, including the lakhs of migrants whose condition made headlines over the past months.
In her letter Mrs Gandhi pointed to the loss of livelihoods for millions of people from the economically weaker sections of society and said "food entitlements must be expanded to address the hunger crisis facing some of the most vulnerable people in the country".
"Nearly three months since the country went into a strict lockdown, millions are at risk of slipping into poverty. The adverse impact on livelihoods has led to chronic food insecurity... The government must consider extending provision for free food grains for a further period of three months, i.e., from July-September 2020," Mrs Gandhi wrote.
In May Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said millions of people would be provided with free food grains for the next two months. These millions, she said, would include migrants not currently under the central food security plan or holding state ration cards.
They will get 5 kg of grains per person and one kg of chana (gram) per family, she said.
In her letter on Monday night Mrs Gandhi asked for this to be extended till September and also wrote: "... since a significant number of poor households continue to be excluded from the PDS, temporary ration cards must be issued to all such households".
"Several states have requested for the same," she wrote.
Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi writes to the Prime Minister urging the Govt to extend the provision of free food grains for a period of three months up till September 2020. pic.twitter.com/t8es8gcDZ4— Congress (@INCIndia) June 22, 2020
The provision of free food grains per person was made during the second tranche of announcements on the Rs 20 lakh crore package unveiled by the government for those hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak and weeks of lockdown.
Migrant workers, lakhs of whom were left without money, shelter or jobs by March's abruptly-enforced lockdown, were among those most affected.
With survival next to impossible in cities and urban centres and public transport shut, a massive exodus was witnessed as they walked and cycled hundreds of kilometres home. As lakhs made their way to hometowns and villages, helped eventually by the centre's special trains, state governments were left with the challenge of feeding them.
India continues under a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Described as the world's strictest lockdown, the current phase ends June 30.
There are over 4.25 lakh confirmed cases with 13,699 deaths linked to the virus.