In a recent move to pacify the poor who have been hard hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, which began on March 25th, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, recently announced an economic relief package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore as a safety net in these desperate times. In order to survive through the coronavirus scare, she announced a slew of economic measures to tackle this grave situation.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, a central sector scheme with a hundred per cent funding from the Government of India, Rs 2000 will be front-loaded in the account of 87 million farmers, with immediate effect within the next ten days.
She also announced that under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana which included higher wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA), a Rs 1000 ex-gratia payment would be bestowed upon nearly 30 million poor senior citizens, widows and disabled persons, along with Rs 50 lakh medical insurance each for about two million healthcare workers who are grappling this lethal disease.
Moreover, for food security measures, the Minister notified an additional 5 kg wheat or rice per person for the next three months for free and 1 kg of pulses. Alongside this, LPG cylinders would be given free of cost to those benefitting from the Ujjwala Yojana.
In the Jan Dhan accounts of women, Rs 500 would be transferred to about 200 million women. Also, Rs 20 lakh collateral-free loans would be provided to women self-help groups (SHGs).
For the organized sector, the government made certain amendments to the Provident Fund regulation. In the construction sector, states were advised to use Rs 31 lakh crore construction worker’s welfare fund as a measure of relief to the workers.
This package would be rolled out immediately in order to ‘reach out to the poorest of the poor’, as the FM suggested. However, she did not mention how these schemes would be funded.