SME Times News Bureau | 26 Mar, 2020
The Centre on Thursday announced a Rs 170,000 crore relief package to
protect the weaker sections of the society from the economic fallout of
Announcing the the measures of relief package, Finance Minister Nirmala
Sitharaman said that the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana will benefit migrant workers,
rural poor and the women.
However, this might not be the final relief package, as the FM clarified to a
question that the current package is only for the "poorest of the
poor" and the weaker sections of the society.
There were high expectations that the government will announce certain economic
relief measures for the industry.
On the relief scheme, Sitharaman said it will work via direct cash transfer, as
one set of measures, while another set will include food security-related
"We do not want anyone to remain hungry, so we will be giving enough to
take care of their foodgrain requirements, protein requirement in terms of
pulses," she said.
"On the other hand, they should also not remain without money in hand. So
several measures through DBT are being taken so that money reaches them so that
they can have money in their hands."
In a step by step announcement, the FM said that the Centre will provide Rs 50
lakh worth medical insurance per person for medical industry workers such as
sanitation and Asha workers, paramedics, nurses and doctors who are putting
themselves at risk by treating Covid-19 patients.
On the food package component of the scheme, the minister said 80 crore
beneficiaries will receive additional 5 kg of rice or wheat free of cost for
three months in addition to 1 kg of pulses per household.
"So, five kg (rice or wheat) per person will be provided to all ration
card holders per month for the next three months free of charge. This will be
over and above what they get under existing schemes. Also, each household will
also be provided free 1kg pulses per month for next three months," she
Under the cash transfer part, the minister said that it will largely be based
on DBT through which farmers, migrant workers, widows, pensioners amongst
others will be provided relief.
For farmers, the first instalment of the Rs 6,000 per year given under PM Kisan
Yojana will be given at the beginning of the year itself. So Rs 2,000 will be
provided into the accounts of farmers, a move that will immediately benefit
8.69 crore farmers.
The MNREGA wages have also been increased from present Rs 182 per day to Rs
202. "As a result, we expect Rs 20 per worker will be the additional
income that will benefit 5 crore families," the minister said.
Sitharaman also decided to provide cash into the account of 3 crore senior
citizens to help them cope with the current crisis. Accordingly, one time
amount of Rs 1,000 will be provided in two instalments into their account.
Also, Ujjawala cooking gas connection holders, over 8 crore women now, will get
free LPG cylinders for the next three months. The 63 lakh women Self help
groups (SHGs), that benefits seven crore households, will be provided
collateral free loans, under the Deen Dayal National Rural livelihood mission,
of Rs 20 lakh - double the existing amount of Rs 10 lakh.
In yet another relief measure, the Finance Minister announced that the
government would bear entire 24 per cent EPF contribution of employer and
employees for next three months. This support will be for employees of
establishments that employ upto 100 employees and wages of 90 per cent of their
employees is less than Rs 15,000 per month.
For organised sector, EPFO regulation will be amended so that workers can draw
up to 75 per cent of their contingency expenditure non-refundable advance or
three months of wages in advance whichever is less.
Moreover, about 3.5 crore registered building and construction workers would be
provided assistance and support from the Rs 31,000 crore welfare funds.
"We will be giving directions to the state governments to ensure that the
fund can be utilised for helping those who are facing economic disruption as a
result of this particular lockdown," the FM said.
The Centre has also requested the state governments to utilise the funds which
are available under the district mineral fund for supplementing and augmenting
all kinds of medical testing activities, screening activities, and also other
requirements, which are so necessary now to fight the coronavirus and from
preventing its spread.