10 Government Measures To Help Poor Through Lockdown

India announced Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package to take care of poor, workers and those who need immediate help amid the pandemic

File image of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
File image of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

India announced a Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package to take care of poor, workers and those who need immediate help amid a lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Scheme, which will cover 80 crore poor people, will include cash transfers and food security, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a press meet in New Delhi. Each one will get free 5 kilogram of rice or wheat every month for the next three months, she said, adding a kilogram of preferred pulse per household will also be given every month to these families for the next three months.

The scheme also focuses on giving payments to different sections of the society directly into their bank accounts. This will cover farmers, workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, widow pensioners, disabled, women with Jan Dhan accounts, women running self help groups, beneficiaries of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation and construction workers.

The novel virus outbreak—that has so far killed 10 and infected more than 600 people in India—forced the government to announce a complete lockdown for 21 days to contain the spreading of infection, shutting down businesses temporarily in an already slowing economy. Only sale of essential items such as food and medicines are allowed.

Here’s what Sitharaman’s relief package includes:

  1. Payout given to 8.69 crore farmers under PM-KISAN will be front-loaded.
  2. Wages under MGNREGA to be hiked to Rs 202 from Rs 182, which would mean an additional Rs 2,000 to every worker.
  3. Three crore poor senior citizens, widows, disabled to get one-time ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 in two instalments.
  4. 20 crore women Jan Dhan account holders will get an ex-gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for three months.
  5. Women in 8.3 crore below-poverty-line families covered under Ujjwala scheme will get free cylinders for three months.
  6. Doubling collateral-free loan amount to Rs 20 lakh for women in self-help groups. Seven crore households to benefit through 63 lakh self-help groups.
  7. Government will pay provident fund contribution for both employer and employee for three months. This would cover those establishments which have up to 100 employees and 90 percent employees earn less than Rs 15,000 per month, benefiting 80 lakh workers.
  8. Provident fund scheme regulations to be amended to allow non-refundable advance of 75 percent of amount in account or three months of wages, whichever is lower. To benefit 4.8 crore workers.
  9. To direct state government to utilise Rs 31,000 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers Fund to support 3.5 crore construction sector workers.
  10. The government will provide medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per person to those at front-lines of fighting the virus. This would cover doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, sanitation and ancillary workers.

    The Finance Minister also said the government will request states to use money in district mineral welfare fund for medical testing and screening to help combat spreading infection.

All the announcements are effective immediately.