Just within a day after the announcement of the lockdown of the country for 21 days which began on March 25, 2020, the finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a financial aid package on COVID-19 for the poor of Rs 1.7 lakh crore. Through this relief package, about 800 million people will be benefited–apart from direct cash transfer, free cooking gas and cereals will be available.
The relief package is meant for those who are hit hardest by this pandemic which has affected not only their daily wages but also the basic needs for their survival. It is a safety net for them which also renders with insurance cover for medical personnel actively working and helping in containing the spread of COVID-19.
The Finance Minister announced this package within 36 hours of the lockdown; however, it is unclear how the benefits of this scheme would be availed by those who don’t have bank accounts and how it will be funded.
Relief package admits COVID-19 includes:
For the ‘Aam Aadmi’ or the citizen of this country, a host of steps are being taken under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
- For those on the front line, Rs 50 lakh of medical insurance was announced, which will cover the doctors, paramedics and other medical staff.
- Concerning food security for the poor or the daily wage workers, an additional 5 kg of wheat or rice for a person for three months free of cost is included along with this 1 kg free dal per household for three months. Free LPG for those under the Ujjwala beneficiaries for three months is also an add on.
- Concerning Cash in hand, in this financial aid, Rs 2000 to 87 million farmers were announced under the scheme of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi to be sent to them within ten days. There is also an increase in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) from rupees 182 to rupees 202 to 136.2 million families. Along with this, 500 rupees per month to 200 million women under Jan Dhan account holders for the next three months. Ex gratia of rupees 1000 to needy senior citizens, widows and disabled.
- For the Organized Sector, the government said that they would contribute to the Employee Provident Fund for those who earn less than Rs 15,000 per month in companies having less than 100 workers, as they are at the risk of losing jobs. That amounts to 24 per cent of basic pay–12 per cent from the employee and 12 per cent from the employer. This will be paid by the government for three months. Besides, the Employees’ Provident Fund Regulations will be amended to include the coronavirus pandemic as grounds for allowing a non-refundable advance of 75 per cent of the corpus or three months of wages, whichever is lower, from their accounts.
- For Construction Workers, states will use 31,000 crore construction workers fund. They will also use the District Mineral Fund for medical activities.
Praising the government’s move Chairman of State Bank Of India Rajnish Kumar stated: “that it is a well very well-defined package.” He further added “we are hopeful of more calibrated responses in coming weeks as the impact of the pandemic unfolds.
The ITC Chairman Sanjiv Puri claimed that this would benefit the most vulnerable sections of the society. The Reserve Bank Of India On March 27, made a surprising announcement granting reliefs to the other section of the society, which has been waiting on aid in the form of cutting down the rate or a temporary pause on EMI’s or loan waiver.