With a 21-day lockdown in place, Union Finance Minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman held a press conference to announce an economic package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore, titled the ‘Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Yojana’.
Sitharaman, who is also heading the Coronavirus Task Force constituted by the Prime Minister, said that with the country 36 hours into the lockdown, the Government needed to bring in a package that would “immediately take care of the welfare concerns of the poor and suffering workers” and those in need.
The FM began by announcing a medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh to those on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus including doctors, nurses, paramedics and sanitation workers. Eighty crore people from the economically backward sections of society are entitled to five kilograms of rice or wheat per month for the next three months. This will be in addition to the five kgs they already receive. One kg of pulses (according to region-wise preference) will be allotted to them in two installments over the next three months.
“We do not want anyone to go hungry,” Sitharaman said. Minister of State for Finance, Anurag Thakur, was also present at the conference.
Sitharaman said that the next installment (Rs 2000) of the Rs 6000 that farmers receive will be given to them immediately and that 8.7 crore farmers will benefit. Senior citizens, widows and the disabled will get Rs 1000 over the next three months in two installments through direct benefit transfer. Twenty crore women Jan Dhan account holders will get Rs 500 per month for the next three months and women under the Ujjwala scheme will get free cylinders for three months.
The daily wage under MNREGA has been increased to Rs 202 a day from Rs 182 to benefit 5 crore workers.
Collateral free loans has been increased to Rs 20 lakh for women in self-help groups.
For those building and construction workers in the unorganised sector, the government has said that Rs 31,000 crore as part of an existing welfare fund will be disbursed to them.
In organisations with over 100 employees where 90% earn below Rs 15000, the government will pay a 12% EPF contribution on behalf of both, the employer and employee, for three months. Workers will be allowed to draw a non-refundable advance of 75% from credit in their Provident Fund accounts or three months salary, whichever is lower
Sitharaman, when asked where the Centre would source funds from, said, that at the moment, the Government is more concerned about helping those in need.
The Rs 1.7 lakh crore economic package will be implemented with immediate effect; cash doles begin from April 1, the FM said.
With PTI Inputs