India's Modi extends free foodgrain program for poor battling coronavirus

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FILE PHOTO: India's PM Modi speaks to the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the winter session in New Delhi

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The Indian government will extend a free foodgrain distribution scheme for 800 million people amid the ongoing pandemic until the end of November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a national address on Tuesday.

Modi said thousands of lives have been saved because of the nationwide lockdowns in place since March 25 and urged citizens to continue to follow social distancing norms as the country restarts economic activity.

Modi said the foodgrain scheme will cost the government an additional 900 billion Indian rupees ($11.91 billion), taking the total spend on the same to 1.5 trillion rupees.

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghosal and Aftab Ahmed; Writing by Swati Bhat; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)