For the first time since its launch on January 26, 2020, the Maharashtra government’s “Shiv Bhojan Thali” will be distributed free to the poor for a month during the current ‘lockdown-like’ curfew measures being clamped from Wednesday night, officials said.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that the ‘thali’ – comprising a wholesome meal of two chapatis, a vegetable, a bowl of rice and dal – will be given free to the poor people in the form of a parcel.

While declaring the new restrictions from 8 p.m. on April 14 till April 30, he said that the government will provide 200,000 SBTs daily through its nearly 964 centres across the state.

Since the launch, more than 5 crore SBTs have been distributed all over the state, benefitting the economically weaker sections, said an official of the Ministry of Food & Civil Supplies which is spearheading the scheme.

During the Lockdown in 2020, the SBT had proved to be a huge boon to the urban, rural poor and the lakhs of migrants who were uprooted and on the move during the pandemic, and many reported that they could survive only because of the SBTs available at strategic locations.

Originally launched for Rs 10 per plate, during the lockdown, Thackeray had slashed the price to just Rs 5 a plate, and now for a month, it will be given to the poor free of cost.

The government will also distribute 3 kg wheat, 2 kg rice to around 7 crore poor people under the Food Security Scheme, he added.

Thackeray also announced a Rs 5,476 crore financial package comprising Rs 1,500 each for 1.20 million construction workers, half-million street-side vendors and 1.20 million autorickshaw drivers and Rs 2,000 each to around 1.20 million tribal families as a one-time assistance under the new restrictions’ regime.

However, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leaders said the financial package was an ‘eye-wash’ and a lot more was expected from the government, given the current pandemic situation and the growing Covid-19 cases and deaths in the state, and the fresh norms which would hit people in a big way.

–IANS

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