Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced an insurance package for “the frontline warriors who are fighting against Coronavirus”. The government will provide ₹50 lakh per person insurance cover per person for the next three months, for the doctors, paramedics, and healthcare workers who are putting their lives in danger while dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak. The package will benefit two million health services and ancillary workers, Sitharaman said in her second press conference of the week.
The finance minister also announced a ₹1.7 lakh crore stimulus package for the most vulnerable sections of society, badly hammered by the coronavirus crisis that has resulted in a 21-day lockdown across the country. Called the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan scheme—which comes into force from Thursday—it consists of two components, food security and cash transfer. This will ensure that the poor, the needy, widows and the disabled not only get enough food through the public distribution system but also additional funds directly transferred to their Jan Dhan accounts.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana, for the next three months, 800 million poor people will get 5 kg of wheat or rice for free over and above the 5 kg they already receive. Additionally, each household will receive one kg of preferred pulses free for the same period. This can be availed in two instalments.
Besides these, the other highlights from the finance minister’s press conference are:
* The government will front-load ₹2,000 paid to farmers in the first week of April under the existing PM-KISAN scheme to benefit 86.9 million farmers.
* Those working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act will get ₹202 a day from the earlier ₹182 for the next three months, which will benefit 50 million poor families; each worker’s income will increase by ₹2,000.
* 200 million women Jan Dhan Account holders will get ₹500 per month for the next three months to help them run their households.
* 30 million poor senior citizens, widows, and the disabled would receive a one-time payment of ₹1,000 for the next three months.
* Ujjwala beneficiaries will now get free cooking gas (LPG) cylinders for the next three months. This would benefit 83 million families below the poverty line.
* Members of 6.3 million self-help groups can now avail collateral-free loans of up to ₹20 lakh, from ₹10 lakh now. This will benefit 70 million households.
* The government will also pay the employer’s and employee’s contribution to provident funds (12% + 12%) for three months at establishments with less than 100 workers of whom 90% get ₹15,000 per month or less. This will benefit eight million workers.
* Provident fund rules will be amended to allow a non-refundable advance of 75% of the corpus or three months’ salary, whichever is lower. This will benefit 48 million workers.
* The central government will direct state governments to use the ₹31,000 crore lying in the construction welfare fund to support 35 million construction sector workers.
* State governments have also been asked to use the district mineral welfare fund for medical screening, testing etc.
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