The government on Thursday announced a slew of measures aimed at providing relief to the most vulnerable sections of the country, which is in lockdown mode to check the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman rolled out a relief package targeted at those at the bottom-of-the-pyramid–including construction workers, farmers, poor women, and the urban poor–with a total financial outlay of ₹1.7 lakh crore. The plan comes into effect immediately. Here is the breakup:
1. Food availability:
Over and above the 5kg of rice/wheat that is given to the poor every month, the government will give an additional 5kg of rice or wheat per person per month, free of cost. Additionally, 1kg of pulses will also be provided. This provision can be availed in two instalments over the course of the next three months. Around 80 crore people are expected to benefit from this.
2. For farmers:
Earlier, under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana, farmers were entitled to a direct cash transfer of ₹6,000 per year. The government will frontload a portion of this, ₹2,000, and pay it to farmers at the beginning of the year. Around 8.70 crore farmers are expected to benefit from this.
3. For MGNREGA workers:
The daily wage of those enrolled in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is being hiked to ₹202 from ₹182 earlier for the next three months. This will result in an additional benefit of ₹2,000 per worker. Around five crore workers are expected to benefit.
4. For poor senior citizens, widows and disabled:
An ex-gratia payment of ₹1,000 will be paid to this section of society in three installments over the next three months. Around three crore people are expected to benefit.
5. For women account holders under Jan Dhan Yojana:
Around 20 crore women account holders will get an ex-gratia amount of ₹500 per month for the next three months.
6. Beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:
Around 8.3 crore families that are below poverty line will get free gas cylinders.
7. For women self-help groups (SHGs):
Members of 63 lakh SHGs in the country, representing seven crore households will get collateral-free loans of up to ₹20 lakh, up from the earlier limit of ₹10 lakh.
8. Workers in the organised sector:
For workers who are enrolled with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, the government will pay the employees’ and employers’ PF contribution (amounting to 24% of a worker’s total basic pay) for the next three months. This is applicable for establishments that employ less than 100 people, earning less than ₹15,000 a month. Also, the government is amending the regulation of the PF scheme to allow 80 lakh workers to take out a non-refundable advance of an amount which is the lesser of a) 75% of the amount standing to the credit of a worker or b) a worker’s three months salary.
9. For construction workers:
An existing fund constituted by the central government has ₹31,000 crore in it for the welfare of building and other construction workers. Directions will be given to the state governments to utilise funds from here to support workers and protect them against any economic disruption. Around 3.5 crore workers are expected to benefit.
10. Utilisation of the District Mineral Fund:
State governments will be asked to utilise the amount lying in the District Mineral Fund to supplement and complement medical testing and screening activities to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
11. Medical insurance for health and sanitation workers:
The government will provide an insurance cover of up to ₹50 lakh per person for the next three months to health and sanitation workers–including nurses, doctors, and paramedics–in case they need it for their treatment, as a consequence of being continuously exposed to Covid-19 patients.