After announcing the first tranche of measures under the Atmanirbhar initiative, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 14 unveiled the next set of measures to alleviate the hardships caused to the farmers, migrant workers and street vendors due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown restrictions.
Street vendors, the worst-hit by lockdown and staring at an uncertain future, have been handed a major lifeline with the government announcing special credit facility of Rs 5,000 crore for them.
With the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana already in place, Sitharaman announced more measures as the government tries to put the economy back on track.
The '1 nation 1 ration card' is also expected to mitigate the problems of the poor and migrant workers to a great extent.
"We are conscious of the problems of the migrants. Government has been working for their benefit over the last two months. There may have been a lockdown, but the government has not been sitting idle," Sitharaman said at the outset, setting the tone for the press meet which lasted for over an hour.
Here we take a look at the key measures announced in today's press meet:
Tackling agri concerns
Sitharaman said a special drive to provide concessional credit to PM-Kisan beneficiaries will be undertaken. The Rs 2 lakh crore concessional credit will be extended to 2.5 crore farmers who don't have the card. Fisherman and animal husbandry workers will also be included.
Track this blog for highlights from second day of FM's briefings
Interest subvention scheme on farmer loans at concessional rates has also been extended until May 31, 2020.
"Liquidity support for farmers and rural economy has been happening over the past two months. Refinancing of Rs 29,000 crore was provided by NABARD to co-operative banks and RRB in March. Through RIDF, NABARD extended support of Rs 4,200 crore in March. Activities via banks to support the agriculture sector has not stopped during lockdown," she said.
Addressing woes of migrant workers
Sitharaman acknowledged that the migrant workers are undergoing immense pain due to the lockdown restructions and reiterated the government's claim of helping them get over this crisis.
"They will get free food grains for the next two months. This will benefit 8 crore migrants and central government has earmarked Rs 3,500 crore for this. For non-ration card holders, there will be free 5 kgs per family of wheat/rice and 1 kg chana. State governments will be in charge of this initiative," she said.
She added that in the past two months, government has transferred Rs 11,000 crore via SDRF to states for migrants and government has funded 3 meals/day to inmates of shelters for urban homeless and Centre has participated in forming 7,200 new self-help groups for urban poor since March 15.
"Will allocate more for MNREGA if required. MNREGA is offering work to 2.33 crore wage-seekers in 1.87 lakh gram panchayats. Actual annual expenditure under MNREGA this financial year so far is Rs 10,000 crore," she said.Labour reforms
"We want to bring in universal minimum wage, and bring in a national floor wage for minimum wages, so that there is no disparity between states," she said.
She also said there is a proposal to make all occupations open to women, including night shifts with proper safeguards, in the pipeline in the proposed Labour Code.
Among other things, there will be mandatory ESIC coverage for employees of hazardous industries, social security schemes for gig and platform workers and re-skilling of retrenched workers. Focus will also be on employment for adivasis and tribals
She said the government will launch a rental housing scheme and use empty government land to build more housing
A special credit facility of Rs 5,000 crore for 50 lakh vendors was announced by the FM and she informed that it will be launched within a month
The initial working capital will be up to Rs 10,000.
The credit link subsidy scheme has been extended up to March, 2021. For the lowest strata of middle-income groups (income of up to 6-18 lakh/annum)
This will reinvigorate construction services and spur demand for building materials.
The FM said empty government land will be used to build more housing through PPP mode.
Reiterating the importance of small-scale units for the Indian economy, she said interest subvention support of 2 percent has been extended to all shishu loan holders (loans up to Rs 50,000)
Sitharaman in the first tranche had unveiled a Rs 5.94 lakh crore plan comprising off-budget items such as Rs 3 lakh crore of credit line to small businesses as well as liquidity support to shadow banks and power discoms.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here