Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a slew of incentives for migrant workers, farmers, street vendors and small traders among others in the second tranche of Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus package to fight the Coronavirus crisis.
Beginning her address, Sitharaman announced that she will keep in focus migrant workers and marginal farmers in the second briefing with a total of nine measures, of which three were dedicated to providing immediate assistance for labourers. Two steps were dedicated to farmers – small farmers in particular, while one measure each was dedicated to Shishu loan, street vendors, housing and employment generation for Tribals.
Relief for farmers
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that direct support to farmers and rural economy is being provided post COVID-19 as part of the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ package.
She said 3 crore farmers with loans of Rs 4.22 Lakh Crore have availed the benefit of 3-month loan moratorium.
The minister said interest subvention and prompt repayment incentive on crop loans due from March 1 has been extended up to May 31, 2020, while adding that 25 lakh new kisan credit cards have been sanctioned with a loan limit of Rs 25,000 Crore.
She further said that the Government has extended liquidity support to farmers and rural economy post COVID-19, under which 63 lakh loans worth Rs 86,600 Crore has been approved in agriculture between March 1 and April 30.
Refinancing of Rs 29,500 Crore has been provided by NABARD to cooperative banks and regional rural banks in March, she said.
Working capital limit of Rs 6700 Crore has been sanctioned for procurement of agriculture produce to state government entities since March 2020, the finance minister added.
Further, the Government has announced Rs 30,000 Crore emergency funding for farmers through NABARD. This is over and above Rs 90,000 Crore to be approved by NABARD through normal finance methods to benefit 3 crore farmers, mostly small and marginal farmers, to meet post harvest Rabi and current Kharif requirement in May/June.
The Centre has also announced Rs 2 Lakh Crore concessional loans for farmers, fisherman, animal husbandry workers.
Seeking to expand the net of the PM Kisan Credit card, the finance minister said that Rs 2 Lakh Crore concessional credit will be extended to 2.5 crore farmers through Kisan credit card.
Relief for migrants
Nirmala Sitharaman informed that Centre has permitted state governments to utilise State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for setting up shelter for migrants.
The Government has also released Rs 11,002 Crore of its contribution in advance to all states on April 3 to augment funds in their SDRF.
Further on, the finance minister said the MNREGA is offering work to 2.33 crore wage seekers in 1.87 lakh Gram Panchyats. She also recalled that in the previous economic package, the wages under MNREGA were also increased from Rs 182 to Rs 202 in order to provide benefit to India’s poorest.
In a major relief for migrant workers, Sitharaman announced free food grain supply for labourers on the move. She said that even those workers who do not have ration cards or are not registered under the public distribution network can also avail 5 kilos of wheat or rice, and one kilos of gram free of cost. The move is expected to benefit 8 crore migrant labours and will cost the Government Rs 3500 Crore.
The finance minister also added that the responsibility to reach out to the migrants and implement the scheme will rest with the respective state governments.
To enable migrants to get access to public distribution system, the Government has introduced ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme by March 2021.
Sitharaman said that 67 crore beneficiaries in 23 states covering 83 per cent of PDS population will be covered by national portability by August, this year.
The Government has announced affordable rental housing scheme for migrant labourers. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that government will convert government housing complexes lying vacant to be rented out to migrants on concessional rates. PPP model will also be used to achieve this under the PM Awas Yojna.
Also, the Centre has decided to extend the credit-linked subsidy scheme up to March 2021. This will benefit 2.5 lakh middle income families during 2020-21.
Relief for street vendors
The Centre has announced a special credit facility of Rs 5,000 Crore for 50 lakh vendors. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the scheme will be launched within a month. An initial working capital of up to Rs 10,000 will also be provided.
Announcing relief for micro units who had taken Mudra Shishu Loans, the government said it will provide interest subvention of 2 percent for prompt payees for a period of 12 months. This will provide a relief of Rs 1500 Crore to MUDRA-Shishu loanees.
Employment generation for Tribals
To create job opportunities for tribals /Adivasis, plans worth Rs 6000 Crore to be approved shortly under Compensatory Afforestation Management & Planning Authority (CAMPA) Funds, said Sitharaman. This will create job opportunities in urban, semi-urban and rural areas.
On Wednesday, Sitharaman came out with 15 new and some enhanced measures to revive businesses, and support workers via fiscal incentives and regulatory easing under the mega stimulus package also known as the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ package.
Accordingly, the minister announced a slew of fiscal and regulatory measures for MSMEs, real estate, NBFCs, power distribution and general businesses and workers.
The Rs 20 Lakh Crore economic package comes as India is set to go under lockdown 4.0 after May 17. However, according to the Prime Minister, this shutdown will be “very different” from the previous ones.