Amid the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has, on Thursday, rolled out an economic and relief package worth of Rs 1.7 lakh crore with the view of aiding and helping the workers, poor, and affected people to ease their economic uncertainty caused by the contagion, which has become a global threat. The aid package from the Central government has come at a high time when the nation has marked its second day of the complete lockdown and when the Center has been strengthening the measures to combat the global pandemic.
While addressing the reporters in Delhi, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has unveiled the relief package in which the government has awarded Rs 50 lakh per person insurance cover for the medical workers including doctors, paramedic professionals, nurses, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) community workers, and healthcare workers who are on the frontline in the war against the Coronavirus.
Nirmala Sitharaman stated that the Center has come up with a package of relief that will take care of the welfare of poor, suffering workers, and the people who are in the need of immediate help. Her package includes free of cost supply of 5 kilograms of wheat or rice and 1 kilogram of preferred pulses for the next three months which would benefit 80 crore poor people across the country. According to the reports, the package which is known as 'Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana' would be benefitting the people through cash transfers and food security measures.
According to the Finance Minister's announcements, eight specific groups including farmers, poor widows, women having Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, women under Ujjwala Yojana, women under Self-help groups, women under EPFO, construction workers, and the beneficiaries under Mahatman Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) would be brought under the umbrella of direct cash transfer. She said that about 8.69 crore farmers who are under PM Kishan Yojna will be provided Rs 2,000 each in the first week of April through the package.
She stated that the women who are Jan Dhan account holders will be awarded Rs 500 per month as ex-gratia for the next three months and this will directly benefit 20.5 crore women whereas the total of 8.3 crore beneficiaries under Ujjwala Yojana will be provided with free LPG cylinders for next three months while the women in Self-help groups would be given with loans up to Rs 20 lakh and these loans would be collateral-free and would help nearly seven crore households.
She further stated that the Central government would pay the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) contribution both for the employer and employee for the next three months and this contribution will apply for all those companies that have 100 employees with 90 percent of employees making less than 15,000 per month. The Finance Ministry has relaxed the EPF scheme regulation and the beneficiary can withdraw non-refundable advance to 75 percent of the amount in their EPF credit or the salary of three months whichever is lower and the relaxation would benefit 4.8 crore workers. She added that the old age people and pensioners - about three crore people, would be provided with the one-time amount of additional Rs 1000 in two installments through direct bank transfers by restricting the role of the middlemen.
The wages for the beneficiaries under MGNREGA would be increased to Rs 202 per day from the current pay of Rs 182 per day and this will benefit 5 crore families. These aid measures have come amid the country has been witnessing more positive cases for the virus. As of Thursday noon, the virus has affected 681 people and claimed 14 lives across the country that had made the nation to close the borders, shut down the companies, restrict the travels, and imposed three weeks of complete lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.