New Delhi: Amid a 21-day countrywide lockdown, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday (March 26) announced a relief package for the poor and migrant workers to mitigate the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The FM also informed about the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Scheme, which will extend monetary help to poor and needy across the country through direct benefit transfer (DBT).
Under the DBT, farmers, MGNREGA beneficiaries, poor widows, pensioners, and divyangs will be covered.
According to Sitharaman, farmers will get the first installment of Rs 2,000 in the first week of April. About 8.69 crore farmers will get immediate benefits out of it. Under the MNREGA scheme, the wage rate has been increased from Rs 182 to Rs 202, amounting to an increase of Rs 2000 per worker. This will benefit 5 crore people.
For old age pensioners and widows, an additional ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 for the next three months available in two installments. It will benefit 3 crore widows and senior citizens.
For women Jan Dhan account holders, a one-time ex-gratia of Rs 500 per month will be given for the next three months. This will benefit 20 crore women.
Under Women Ujwala Scheme, 8.3 crore BPL families will get free cylinders for three months.
Under the Deen Dayal National Livelihood Mission, women self-help groups (SHGs) will be provided collateral-free loans up to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh earlier. This will impact 7 crore holders through 63 lakh SHGs.
The FM also extended benefits for the organised sector. The government will pay provident fund contribution of both the employer and the employee put together at 24 per cent for the next three months. However, this will be applicable to those establishments having up to 100 employees and 90 per cent of them earning less than Rs 15,000 per month.
She also said that the EPFO regulation will be amended so that workers can draw up to 75 per cent of the amount for their contingency expenditure. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers.
For 3.5 crore construction workers, state governments have been directed to use the welfare fund for building and construction labourers which has about Rs 31,000 crore to help those who are facing economic disruption because of the lockdown.
Sitharaman added that the State governments have also been asked to utilise funds available under the district mineral fund for testing activities, medical screening, providing health attention needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.