Prime Minister Narendra Modi must decide shortly whether to continue the food distribution programme, which has cost India $44 billion since the outbreak, or to reduce the burden on the nation’s economy and food supply.
Since April 2020, Modi has been distributing 5 kg of rice or wheat each month to 800 million Indians as part of a programme that costs around Rs 1.5 trillion yearly. The pandemic-era scheme, which was implemented to complement the country’s long-standing grain subsidy sales, is scheduled to expire at the end of September.
According to those with knowledge of the situation, the finance ministry opposes extending the programme because it would put additional strain on a budget deficit that is only now beginning to decline after reaching an all-time high during the pandemic. The final decision would be made by Modi’s administration, which is also considering other possibilities including keeping the freebies for at least another quarter till the festival season and local elections are through, the people said while declining to be named since they were discussing private discussions.