Minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised free ration to 80 crore people till Chhath puja on Tuesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that free rations will be provided to the people of the state till June 2021. She also urged the Centre to extend its rationing system to the entire country without any discrimination. Modi in an address to the nation on Tuesday promised free five kg rice or wheat and one kg pulses per person till Chhath puja, which usually falls in November, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.
Declining to comment on it, Banerjee said everybody is not eligible for ration provided by the central government. "In West Bengal, we will give free ration till June 2021... We have decided to extend it so that everybody has food to eat. We can't depend on what the Centre is providing," she said minutes after the prime minister's address to the nation.
"We (state government) are providing ration to more than 10 crore people of the state. In West Bengal, the Centre provides ration to six crore people only. So what will the remaining four crore people do? There should not be any discrimination, the entire population of 130 crore people should get the ration," she said.
The announcement by Banerjee, who is also the chief of the ruling TMC, comes just months ahead of the assembly polls, due in April-May. The BJP has emerged as the main opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress in the state after it won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019.
Speaking on the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojna - a job scheme for migrant workers by the Centre, in which West Bengal did not find a place, Banerjee said "We (TMC government) can't comment on it, as our state has been excluded and we are not aware of the details of the scheme." Mocking her announcement on free ration, the BJP and the CPI(M) said the TMC will be out of power by June next year.
"Why is she making promises she can't fulfil? Her party will be out of power by June next year. This is not an area (free rations) to compete. Just because the prime minister has announced something, it doesn't mean she needs to replicate it. The state government should stop making announcements but concentrate on seamless ration supply for the poor," CPI(M) legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty said.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha questioned Banerjee over her announcement and said her statement "will remain an announcement only on pen and paper" and will never see the light of the day. "The TMC won't be in power after April May next year," he claimed.