With an aim at alleviating the troubles being faced by the lower strata of the society due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Finance Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman announced measures under Prime Minister Garib Kalyan scheme on March 26.
The FM said the announcements made by her come into effect immediately and added that today's announcements were aimed at reaching out to those people who are the most vulnerable and needed such kinds of measures. She also said that more measures can be announced if needed.
The FM also announced a Rs 50 lakhs per person medical insurance to the warriors of coronavirus, including nurses, paramedics, and doctors.
Here are 10 key highlights from FM's presser:
A package of 1.7 lakh cr: "We have come with a package that will take care of the concerns of people who need immediate help. The package will help poor people from rural and urban areas, workers, widows, divyangs and senior citizens," the FM said.
The FM underscored that the package, which includes food security and cash transfers, will take care of the welfare concerns of the poor.
Focus on the needy: Farmers, people under MNREGA, widows, poor pensioners, divyang, women under Jan Dhan Yojana, women and households under Ujjwala scheme, self-help groups for women especially under the livelihood mission, organised sector workers under EPFO, construction workers and district mineral funds were on the focus of the FM's announcements.
Food for poor: The FM said as many as 80 crore people will come under the ‘Pradhan mantra Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana (food scheme)’ and every one under this scheme will get 5 kg of wheat/rice for free in addition to what they get already.
Additionally, one kg of one type of pulse will also be given under the scheme to each household.
"Everyone under this scheme will get 5 kg of wheat or rice for free in addition to what they are already getting. We will also give one kg of one choice of pulse to each household under this scheme for the next three months. They can take it in two installments also," the FM said.
Early money for farmers: Farmers receive Rs 6,000 per annum through the PM-KISAN scheme. The FM announced the first installment of it would be given upfront. Farmers will get Rs 2,000 now in the first week of April. Around 8.69 crore farmers will get immediate benefit out of this.
Wage increase in MNREGA: The FM announced an increase in wages for MNREGA worker which is likely to benefit 5 crore families. Wage rate was increased to Rs 202 from 182 and it will result in additional income of Rs 2,000 per worker.
Sops for senior citizens, widows & divyangs: Poor senior citizens, widows and 'divyangs' will receive Rs 1,000 over the next three months in two phases, the FM announced. Besides, 20 crore women Jan Dhan Yojana account holders will get Rs 500 per month for the next three months.
Free cooking-gas to Ujjwala beneficiaries: Ujjwala beneficiaries will get free cooking-gas cylinders for the next 3 months. As many as 8.3 crore families below poverty line will get free LPG cylinders for three months.
Loan amount doubled for self-help groups: The collateral-free loan amount for the self-help groups for women has been raised to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh earlier.
"There are 63 lakh self-help groups for women in the country. They get up to Rs 10 lakh collateral-free loans right now. We are doubling that to Rs 20 lakh," said the FM.
Measures on the front of EPF: The FM said Centre will pay the EPF contribution both - of the employer and of the employee (12 percent each) - for the next three months. However, this is only for those establishments that have up to 100 employees and 90 percent of whom earn under Rs 15,000 per month.
The FM also said that the provident scheme regulations will be an amendment to allow the non-refundable advance of 75 percent or three months’ wages, whichever is lower. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers who are registered with the EPF.
District Mineral Fund for medical expenses: The FM said that the states will be able to use district mineral fund for COVID-19 medical expenses. "States will use the District Mineral Fund for medical screening, facilities and health needs," she said.
For the Buildings and Other Construction Workers’ Fund, Centre is giving directions to states to release those funds.