To pre-empt any chance of food scarcity during the period of lockdown, the Kerala cabinet decided on Wednesday to provide all ration card holders, irrespective of their economic status, at least 15 kg of rice free for a month. BPL card holders will get their usual quota of 35 kg of food grains; 28 kg of rice and 7 kg of wheat. In other words, virtually all families in the state would get “good quality” free rice for a month.
In addition to food grains, the state government will also begin the distribution of social security pensions from March 27. The pension arrears of October and November, 2019, would be together paid this month. This will see an outgo of Rs 1,218 crore from the exchequer.
Besides food grains, BPL card holders will also be provided a provision kit. The mode of distribution has not yet been decided. Either the food grains and provision kit would be taken to the doorsteps of beneficiaries or measures would be taken to distribute the commodities through ration shops in such a way it does not create crowding. It could also be a combination of both.
Steps have also been taken, in consultation with local bodies, to reach food and other essentials to the houses where people have been quarantined. Ward committees have also been asked to identify homes where the marginalised - the old, differently-abled and transgenders - live so that food and essentials could be provided directly.
The Cabinet has also made some changes in the working hours of ration shops. Normally they function from 9am to 2pm. During lockdown, it has been decided to keep them open from 9am to 5pm with a one-hour break between 1pm and 2pm.
Earlier, when the lockdown was announced on March 23, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that all shops selling essential goods like groceries, provisions, vegetables, eggs, milk, fish and meat will remain open from 7am to 5pm in all districts except Kasaragod where the timing would be from 11am to 5pm.