COVID-19 outbreak in India: Centre announces Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package

Finance minister announces Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package

Published: Thursday 26 March 2020

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 26, 2020 announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package in response to the economic disruptions that are expected would arise due to the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

The measures have been bundled under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana — literally, the prime minister’s scheme for the welfare of the poor.

Every person will be entitled to 5 kilogrammes of rice or wheat per month for free for the next three months. A kg of pulses (according to regional preferences) will be allotted per household too. These will be given in two instalments.

The foodgrain will be over and above any existing food programme and are expected to benefit 800 million Indians.

Sitharaman also announced programmes for eight different population groups. Accordingly, eligible farmers will be handed over their first instalment of next financial year’s PM-KISAN — Rs 2,000 — at the beginning of the year (starting April).

Wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act have been revised up to Rs 202. That will benefit 30 million families, Sitharaman claimed.

Another 30 million — senior citizens, widows and the differently abled will be given Rs 1,000 ex-gratia in two instalments over the next three months.

Cooking gas will be free for the period for those below the poverty line.

200 million women holding Jan Dhan accounts will also receive Rs 500 per month for three months.

Women organized under self-help groups will be eligible for collateral-free credit of Rs 20 lakh.

The FM also announced a Rs 50 lakh insurance for health workers combating the pandemic at government hospitals and healthcare centres, including sanitation workers, ASHA workers, paramedics, etc.

The Union government will also pick up the tab for provident funds for the organsied sector — both the empoyers’ and the employees’ contributions for the period.

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