As the second wave of Covid-19 infections stretches out and spreads across the country, policymakers will need to use food and cash transfers to help out the most vulnerable sections of society. While the government has stayed away from a nationwide lockdown, local curbs and the fear of a spreading virus are having an impact on daily wage earners across a number of sectors.
So far, the central government has announced an extension of its food transfer scheme. Five kilograms of food grains per-person per-month will be given out to an estimated 800 million Indians free of cost in May and June. The transfers are expected to cost the government Rs 26,000 crore. No cash transfers have been announced as yet by the central government.
“There is economic distress and hardship that is not visible right now because the health crisis has (rightly so) occupied mainstream media,” said Reetika Khera, associate professor of economics at IIT-Delhi, arguing in favour of an expanded food transfer programme. The stocks of grains with the Food Corporation of India are plenty and the government has the ability to provide more relief, said Khera.
Khera, who has long argued that free food transfers need to go beyond grains, said that dal, rice and cooking oil should be provided as a norm or at least in the current scenario.