COVID-19 pandemic

Rs1.7L cr aid, govt reaches out to 80 cr poor

Free foodgrain, cooking gas for three months | Cash doles to women, senior citizens and disabled

New Delhi, March 26

The government today announced a Rs 1.70 lakh crore relief package called “PM Garib Kalyan Scheme” to help the country’s most vulnerable sections of the population tide over the economic turmoil caused by the Covid-induced 21-day countrywide lockdown.

“At this moment we are reaching out to the poorest of poor. We will obviously think about the other things too,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman when asked when will the government address the middle class’ demands for EMI and loan waiver. The industry too has sought a resuscitation package of lower interest rates, easy credit and sustained governmental spending on infrastructure. Providing details at a press conference along with Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur who provided a running translation in Hindi, Sitharaman said today’s announcement covered cash transfers and food security. Besides, the government announced a medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per person in order to bolster sentiments of safety and security among frontline health staff and their families. Although there have been persistent demands from civil aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors for immediate relief and a moratorium on EMI payments since many have been rendered unemployed, Sitharaman sought to keep the focus of the conference on food security and cash transfers to the vulnerable. “We have to first reach food to the poorest of the poor and reach money to those who need it immediately. That is why we have even extended cooking gas for free to help those who get grains but may not have the means for buying the fuel. At this point, we are looking at PM Garib Kalyan Yojna so that the poor don’t starve for food. As things develop, we will come back,” she said when asked about relief from EMI payments and a package for the worst-hit economic sectors.

“We will come back when something is ready,” she observed when asked for a second time on the issue. The announcements cover 80 crore people, and women will benefit several times over from money in Jan Dhan accounts, free gas cylinders, enhanced loan limit for women self-help groups and MNREGA.

The measures announced today also include instructions to states on spending Rs 31,000 crore in the Construction Workers Fund as well as drawing on the district mineral fund about which no ready figures are available. The package leaves several unanswered questions, especially about the raising of resources to fund the non-budgeted announcement, which the government is likely to announce later. — TNS

Package to soften lockdown blow

  • Rs1.70 lakh crore relief package under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana
  • Rs50 lakh Insurance cover for health workers
  • 80 crore to get 5 kg wheat/rice and 1 kg of pulses free for next three months
  • Free gas cylinders for 8 crore poor families for next 3 months.
  • 20.4 crore women Jan Dhan account holders to get one-time relief of Rs1,500
  • Poor senior citizens, widows and disabled to get direct cash transfer of Rs1,000
  • EPF to allow non-refundable advance of 75% of the amount or three months of the wages, whichever is lower
  • Govt to bear PF costs for small units with mostly low salaried workers
  • Increase in MNREGA wage to benefit 13.62 crore families
  • First instalment of PM Kisan Yojana frontloaded
  • Lending limit doubled for women self-help groups
  • States told to draw on district mineral development fund

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