The majority of businesses, big or small, have shut down across the country due to the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Experts have warned that the lockdown is putting a burden on the economy, which was already reeling under flagging demand and low GDP growth under the BJP government.
The biggest sufferers of the lockdown are the migrant workers and the daily wage workers who lost their jobs and have no means to sustain themselves. With no food to eat or money to survive, many of them defied the lockdown last month as they marched on foot to their native towns and villages from the cities in order to live.
To address these issues and highlight the plight of those suffering, Congress president Smt Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, standing firm that it must be ensured that "no one faces hunger" because of the coronavirus lockdown. Even though she appreciated the centre's move to provide grain at low prices, Smt Gandhi insisted that the scheme be extended till September "given the chronic economic distress".
"I hope this letter finds you well. Lakhs of vulnerable people across the country face chronic food insecurity due to the lockdown. This is tragic given that India has a large buffer stock of food grains precisely for exigencies like the current pandemic," her letter said.
"I welcome your decision to provide free of cost, 5kg grain/person in addition to the entitlements under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) from April-June, 2020," Smt Gandhi added.
The Congress leader in the letter suggested a few ways the government could adopt to ease economic pressure on the poor due to the "adverse impact of the lockdown and its prolonged impact on people's livelihoods".
"Firstly, the provision of 10 kg grains/person to NFSA (National Food Security Act) beneficiaries must be extended for an additional period of 3 months i.e. till September, 2020. Given the chronic economic distress faced by these beneficiaries, the food entitlements may be provided free of cost," she said.
Smt. Gandhi wrote how the crisis that coronavirus has posed has pushed many relatively food secure families into food insecurity and poverty and that those who don't have the NFSA cards due to being secure earlier must also be provided the benefits under the law for a period of six months as their situation has changed drastically.
"The above measures are critical to safeguard people against food inflation, at a juncture where supply chain disruptions are causing price rise ...In our fight against the pandemic we must ensure that no one faces hunger," she wrote.