Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a relief package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore for poor via cash transfer and food subsidy amid lockdown to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Government announces Rs 1.70 lakh crore package under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana. The government is working for those who are directly affected like migrants, labours, women etc. We are now announcing a package for poor and those who need immediate help. No one will go hungry,” said Sitharaman while addressing a press conference.
Cash transfer under PMGKAY will be through DBT in eight parts: Farmers, MNREGA, widows, poor pensioners, divyang, women under Jan Dhan Yojana; women and households under Ujjwala scheme; self-help groups for women especially under the livelihood mission; organized sector workers under EPFO; construction workers under district mineral funds.
The finance minister further announced medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per healthcare worker for three months.
8.69 crore farmers will be immediately benefited through direct cash transfers under the PM-KISAN scheme and an instalment of Rs 2000 will be transferred in the first week of April.
“Wage increase under MNREGA scheme will benefit 5 crore families. Wage increase will result in additional income of Rs 2,000 per worker,” said Nirmala Sitharaman.
“They receive Rs 6,000 per annum through the PM-KISAN scheme. We will now be giving the first instalment upfront. Around 8.69 crore farmer will get immediate benefit out of this,” said the finance minister.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna, 80 crore people, which is 2/3rd of India population, will be benefited for the next three months, said Sitharaman.
“Every one under this scheme will get 5 kg of wheat/rice for free in addition to the already alloted 5 kg. We will also give one kg of one choice of pulse to each household under this scheme for the next three months. They can take it in two installments also,” she said.
Centre will pay the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) contribution both of the employer and of the employee (24 per cent put together) for firms with over 100 employees with 90 per cent of them earning less that Rs 15,000, for the next three months.
The minister said the Government is ready to amend the regulation of EPF due to the pandemic so that workers can draw up to 75 per cent non-refundable advance from credit in PF account or three months salary, whichever is lower. This decision will benefit 4.8 crore workers. Sitharaman said.
Women Jan Dhan account holders will get an ex gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for the next three months, announced the minister. “There are 63 lakh self-help groups for women in the country. They get up to Rs 10 lakh collateral-free loans right now. We are doubling that to Rs 20 lakh,” Sitharaman said.
Under the Ujjwala scheme, women will be given free cylinders for the next three months. This will benefit 8.3 crore families below poverty line.
The Government also announced welfare package for building and construction workers which will benefit 3.5 crore registered workers. The Centre has given orders to State governments to use the fund amounting to Rs 31,000 crore to provide relief.
The Central government will also request States to use this fund to augment medical testing and screening and providing health attention to the workers.
The 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contain the Coronavirus pandemic has forced shops, factories and industries to be shut. The migrant labourers and daily wagers are the ones who are at the receiving end of the shutdown as it has left them without work and a source of livelihood.
India has so far reported 15 deaths due to novel Coronavirus and the number of confirmed cases have risen to 649 in the country.
With a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Government was forced to lock down 1.3 billion people to curb the spread of the pandemic.