Central Govt Announces Rs 1.70 Lakh Cr COVID-19 Relief Package for Poor
The central government has come up a relief package of Rs 1.70 lakh crores in the midst of nation-wide lockdown due to coronavirus, said union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 26 while addressing a press meet.
The Finance Minister announced relief package aimed at providing a safety net for those hit the hardest by the Covid-19 lockdown, along with insurance cover for frontline medical personnel.
“Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown beginning from March 25, the government has coming up with a slew of measures to combat the economic impact of the lockdown. The urban and rural poor population need immediate help to survive and the 1.70 lakh crore package aims to help them during these times of crisis,” stated Sitharaman.
Eight major announcements were made during the press meet through which about 80 crore people will get free cereals and cooking gas apart from cash through direct transfers for three months.
1. For the poor
Under the Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (food scheme), around 80 crore poor people will receive 5 kg of wheat/rice for free in addition to what they are already getting. The government will also be given one kg of pulse to each household under this scheme for the next three months. The beneficiaries can take it these food items in two installments also.
Additionally, gas cylinders will be provided free of cost to over 8 crore poor families for the next three months. During this period, a maximum of three gas cylinders will be provided under the Ujjwala Scheme.
2. For Farmers
Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojna, farmers will be given Rs 2,000 in April. The government estimates that this would cover 8.7 crore families and thus the total amount distributed is estimated to be Rs 16,000 crore.
3. For daily wage laborers
Under the MNREGA scheme, daily wages have been increased to Rs 202 a day from Rs 182. This will benefit nearly 5 crore families.
Sitharaman stated that wage increase will result in additional income of Rs 2,000 per worker
4. For low wage earners
Low wage earners in the organized sector are among the worst hit due to the lockdown and the resultant economic crisis. To help people who fall under this category, the government has decided to pay the entire 24 per cent of their monthly wages into their Provident Fund accounts for the next three months.
"Wage earners below Rs 15,000 per month in businesses having less than 100 workers are at risk of losing their employment," Sitharaman said adding that the assistance would help prevent "disruption in their employment".
Further, Employees' Provident Fund Regulations will be amended to include 'pandemic' as the reason to allow non-recoverable advance of 75 per cent of the amount or three months of the wages, whichever is lower, from their accounts.
5. For senior citizens, widows and differently able
There are around 3 crore senior citizens, widows and differently abled people in India who are vulnerable due to economic disruption caused by Covid-19.
"Government of India (GoI) will give them Rs 1,000 to tide over difficulties during next three months. Rs 3,000 crore has been provided for this purpose in the PM Gareeb Kalyan Package," the finance minister said.
6. For Self Help Groups (SHGs)
"There are 63 lakh self-help groups for women in the country which have approximately 7 crore households under them. They have been getting up to Rs 10 lakh collateral-free loans so far. We are doubling that to Rs 20 lakh," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
Additionally, women Jan Dhan Account holders will get Rs 500 per month for the next three months.
7. For construction workers
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Centre will direct state governments to utilise the construction workers' welfare fund to support these workers against economic disruption due to the lockdown.
The fund created by a central government's Act currently has about Rs 31,000 crore in it. A total of around 3.5 crore workers are registered under the Act.
8. For health workers
One of the major announcements made by Sitharaman was for the health warriors of the country. To protect interests of health workers, the government announced Rs 50 lakh insurance per health worker. The beneficiaries include doctors, nurses, asha workers, paramedic staff and other healthcare workers who are dealing with coronavirus outbreak risking their own lives.
"Any health professional who while treating Covid-19 patients meets with some accident, then he/she would be compensated with an amount of Rs 50 lakh under the scheme," the announcement said.
Along with other major announcements, the minister also announced that the government has directed states to use district mineral fund for the coronavirus medical expenses.
States will use district mineral fund for medical screening, facilities, and healthcare needs, she said.