FM announces Rs. 1.7 lakh crore relief package for Indian poor

Amidst the nationwide lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Finance Minister held a press conference to address the looming issue of a resource shortage for farmers among others living in poverty

FM announces Rs. 1.7 lakh crore relief package for Indian poor

With the threat of the coronavirus looming and the entire country under a strict lockdown, the Central Government has declared a Relief Package to help the Indian poor, who will be most affected by the crisis. The package includes immediate cash transfers through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), free of cost food supply, among other essentials for the needy. The war-like response to the COVID-19 spread resulted in a huge number of migrant workers moving back to their hometowns in rural India. This has certainly led to the question of their daily wages and food supply among other essentials.

The Finance Minister laid forth the following points of the package under the PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojna:

Free cereal and pulses - 5 kgs of rice or wheat per person and 1 kg of pulses per card will be given for free for 3 months. The pulses will be specific to the region keeping in mind the staple diet of the people therein.

For farmers - Rs. 2,000 to be deposited in the first week of April through DBT. 8.69 crore farmers to get immediate benefit with this.

Wage increase in MNREGA - a wage increase from Rs. 182 to Rs. 202 under the MNREGA scheme. This will benefit 5 crore families in India.

For poor old aged, disabled, widows  - an additional one-time amount of Rs. 1,000 paid in 2 instalments through DBT will benefit 3 crore people.

Women Jan Dhan account holders - each of the 20 crore women account holders will receive an ex-gratia amount of Rs. 500 per month for the next 3 months.

Ujjwala Scheme - free cylinders for 3 months will benefit 8.3 crore families below the poverty line.

Women self-help groups - One can receive collateral-free loans up to Rs. 20 lakhs (up from Rs. 10 lakhs) and will benefit 7 crore households across the country.

The government has also set aside provisions for the organised sector:

  • The government will pay the EPF contribution of 24% (12% for employer + 12% for employee) for the next 3 months. This will be valid for establishments up to 100 employees, 90% of whom draw less than Rs. 15,000 per month. It is estimated that 80 lakh employees will benefit from this.
  • Provident Fund Scheme regulations will be amended to allow a non-refundable advance of 75% of the amount standing to the credit of a member or 3 months wages, whichever is lower and can affect 4.8 crore workers registered under EPFO scheme.
  • For the 3.5 crore registered workers in the construction industry -  Rs. 31,000 crore fund to be utilised by State Governments for those facing economic disruptions as a result of the lockdown. The State governments have been instructed to utilise district mineral fund for supplying medical testing, screening activities and other requirements to fight coronavirus.

It remains to be seen if the Centre decides on a stimulus package for the country's economy too, which is sure to take a hit following the 21-day lockdown.