COVID-19: Rs 1.70 lakh crore to help poor during coronavirus lockdown says Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a stimulus package worth Rs 1.70 lakh crore including Direct Benefit cash transfers, free LPG, grains and pulses for the poor while the middle class will be able to withdraw funds from their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) account to give all of them some respite during the coronavirus lockdown.
Nirmala Sitharaman said “A package is ready for the poor who need immediate help like migrant workers and urban and rural poor. No one will go hungry. The package is worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore and will include a mix of food security and direct cash transfer benefits, which shield poor families during the lockdown. This will be done under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna.”
The first measure was to immediately release the first instalment of the direct cash transfer to farmers under the PM Kisan Yojna. Sitharaman announced “8.69 crore farmers to be immediately benefited through Direct cash transfers. Instalment of Rs 2000 in the first week of April will be transferred.” Wages under MNREGA will also be increased by Rs 2000 per worker on an average as additional income to help daily-wage labourers.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna (PMGKAY), announced for the for next three months, at least 80 crore poor people will be covered. Under the scheme, an additional five kilos of rice/wheat will be given along with 1 kilo of pulses per household. Ujjwala beneficiaries, meanwhile, will get free cooking gas (LPG) cylinders in the next three months, which will benefit 8.3 crore BPL families.
The finance minister also announced that three crore senior citizens and women will be covered under the Divyang scheme, under which a one-time additional amount of Rs 1000 in two instalments will be given through Direct Benefit Transfers over a period of three months.
She also announced that 20 crore Jan Dhan women account holders will be covered under the relief package and a compensation of Rs 500 per month will be offered to them for the next three months. Apart from this, to help the construction workers, the finance minister said the central government has given orders to state governments permission to use funds of Rs 31,000 crore lying with them.
For the organised sector, she said that government will pay EPF contribution, both of employer and employee, for three months for all those establishments with less than 100 employees out of which 90 per cent earn less than Rs 15,000 per month. She also announced a Rs 50 lakh insurance cover for each healthcare worker for three months.
All the schemes come into effect immediately. People will get benefits from April 1. She added that this announcement is to help in cushioning the poor and the government will announce more measures when required.
When asked about the relief given to the industries, she replied that “we will come back when we have something for them”. The expectations of this relief package had been building up since last week.
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