Poor Muslim families in Telangana were not offered Ramzan gifts this year, which the state government has been distributing every year on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr since 2015.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government, led by K. Chandrasekhar Rao, apparently cancelled the programme due to the financial crisis caused by the two-month- old lockdown imposed to check the spread of COVID-19, according to sources.
However, it was officially stated that since the distribution of Ramzan gifts could have led to violation of social distancing norms, it was decided not to conduct the programme this year.
The government, in the budget for 2022-21, had allocated Rs 66 crore for iftar dinners at mosques across the state and for distribution of clothes among the poor. It had also allocated Rs 1.83 crore for the customary iftar party hosted by the Chief Minister in Hyderabad every year.
Since the Chief Minister's iftar party and iftar dinners at mosques were cancelled due to the lockdown, there was a proposal to use the entire amount for distribution of ration kits. This was expected to help more than four lakh poor families.
The Minorities Welfare Department had also submitted a proposal that instead of giving clothes as Ramzan gifts, the government may distribute food packets as this would take care of the much-needed requirement of the poor families during the ongoing lockdown.
However, the proposal was not approved by the officials in the Chief Minister's office. They pointed out said since the government distributed free rice and Rs 1,500 to every white ration card holder or below poverty line family as a lockdown relief measure, there was no need for a separate programme to distribute ration kits among poor Muslim families.
TRS' friendly party All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) had also appealed to Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to distributed ration kits among poor Muslim families instead of clothes.
AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi had written a letter to KCR to divert the funds allocated for iftar parties at mosques for distribution of ration.
He wrote that in view of the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected the livelihood of daily-wage earners in the state, a large section of Muslims, who are all engaged in the informal or unorganised sector, required timely assistance during the fasting month of Ramzan.
The state government has been distributing Ramzan gifts and hosting iftars at mosques since 2015.
Last year, about 4.5 lakh gift packets were distributed among poor families through 832 mosques across the state. The government had also provided Rs 1 lakh each to these mosques to host iftars or post-dusk meals to break the fast.
Each Ramzan gift packet comprised a salwar, kameez, saree and blouse, all valued at about Rs.525.
The TRS government has been distributing gifts among poor families on the occasion of festivals of other religions as well.
Every year, it is also distributing gifts among 2.35 lakh poor Christians families and hosting Christmas dinners.
Similarly, the government has been distributing sarees among poor women on the occasion of Bathukamma, a folk festival which was declared as the state festival in 2014.
Last year, the government spent Rs 313 crore to distribute over one crore sarees on the occasion of Bathukamma.