Centre has come out with an Rs 1.7 lakh crore economic package to help the poor tide over the impact of national coronavirus lockdown. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a slew of measures to help poor people, health workers, employees and poor women mitigate the crisis. Sitharaman said that the government intends to ensure food security for these people and put money in their hands.
The Finance Minister listed eight specific sections that will be covered under the cash transfer part of the economic package. These sections include farmers, MNREGA workers, poor widows, pensioners and divyangs, women who have Jan Dhan accounts, beneficiaries of Ujjwala Yojana, women from self help groups (SHGs) dealing with National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), organised sector workers, and construction workers.
The first instalment of cash transfers under PM-KISAN scheme, which offers Rs 6,000 per farmer annually, will be given as a front load to farmers. This means the farmers eligible under the PM-KISAN scheme will get Rs 2,000 in the first week of April. The move will immediately benefit 8.69 crore farmers.
Daily wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been increased from Rs 182 to Rs 202. This wage increase will result in benefits worth Rs 2,000 per worker and will impact 5 crore families.
"In this lockdown period and post that, even for field activities, the local district commissioners are empowered to exempt agricultural work or others, with social distancing norms being respected. Where there is work, they can always do it," FM Sitharaman said on MGNREGA activities during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
Pensioners, widows and divyangs
A one-time ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 will be given to people over 60 years of age, widows and physically handicapped under the economic package. This amount will be given in two instalments over next three months. This is expected to benefit 3 crore poor senior citizens, poor widows and poor divyangs.
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Women Jan Dhan account holders
Government will deposit Rs 500 monthly for the next three months into Jan Dhan accounts held by women. This will benefit 20 crore women Jan Dhan account holders.
Meanwhile, other benefits that do not fall under direct cash transfer have also bee announced.
Ujjwala Scheme beneficiaries
Free LPG cylinder refills will be provided to beneficiaries of Ujjwala scheme for the next three months so that they do not run out of cooking fuel. This will benefit 8.3 crore families.
Women self help groups
The limit for collateral-free loans under National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) has been doubled to Rs 20 lakh. This will impact 7 crore households through 63 lakh SHGs.
Centre will pay the EPF contributions for both of the employer and the employers for the next three months. Both employers and employees contribute 12 per cent each to the EPF account of the employee. This is for establishments which have up to 100 employees, 90 per cent of whom are earning less than Rs 15,000 per month. This will benefit 80 lakh employees and incentivise 4 lakh establishments.
The provident fund scheme regulations will be amended to allow non-refundable advance of 75 per cent of the amount standing to the credit of a member, or three months of wages, whichever is lower. This will benefit 4.8 crore employees registered with the Employee Provident Fund Organisation.
Centre will instruct the states to utilise the welfare fund for building and construction workers formed under a Central Government Act. FM Sitharaman said that the welfare fund has Rs 31,000 crore and 3.5 crore registered workers.
State governments will be directed to use these funds to help these building and construction workers against any economic disruption due to nationwide lockdown.
The states will also be asked to utilise funds under the District Mineral Fund for supplementing and augmenting testing, screening and other measures required to contain coronavirus.