FM Nirmala Sitharaman announces Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package for poor

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 27, 2020, 12.33 AM(IST) Edited By: Sonal Gera

File photo: Nirmala Sitharaman Photograph:( ANI )

Story highlights

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown in order to stem the growth of coronavirus in the country.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package under Garib Kalyan Yojana — in the wake of the lockdown imposed due to the spurt in coronavirus cases in the country. The tally now stands at 694 — with 16 deaths.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown in order to stem the growth of coronavirus in the country.

The cost of the lockdown has been pegged at Rs 9 lakh crore rupees or a 4 per cent drop in the country's total output -- measured in GDP.

All economic activity has come to a halt.

So, the task at hand for Sitharaman was clear — feed the poor, protect the low-income earners, and insure the healthcare workers. The relief measures were announced a day after the country went into a 21-day lockdown 

The relief package will take care of the them in two ways — food security and direct cash transfers.

The food security measures will reach an estimated 80 crore people - that's over 60 per cent of the country's 1.3 billion population.

Under an existing scheme, low-income earners get 5 kilograms of rice or wheat per month at a subsidised rate.

Now, the government will top it up with an additional 5 kilograms of either rice or wheat per person. This relief measure will run for the next three months.

Over the same period, one kilogram of pulses will be provided for free to every household.

An ex-gratia of Rs 1,000 in two installments over three months would be given to poor senior citizens over 60 years, widows and the disabled. “This will benefit 3 crore poor senior citizens, widows and disabled,” she said.

Daily wages under the rural employment scheme will be increased by Rs 2,000 per worker.

This wage increase could benefit at least 5 crore families. Over 8 lakh farmers will each get Rs 2,000.

Families under the below poverty line will get free cooking-gas cylinders for the next three months.

All this will be done through direct benefit transfer as it ensures that subsidies reach recipients through their bank accounts.

The finance minister has also asked all state governments to use the special welfare fund worth Rs 31,000 crore.

Insurance cover for frontline healthcare workers was one of the most important announcements. The government will provide insurance cover worth Rs 50 lakh for sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, and paramedics.

“There will be Rs 50 lakh insurance per health care worker as a medical insurance cover for three months. Hopefully, we would be able to contain the virus in this period,” Sitharaman said.

The deadline for filing I-returns for financial year 2018-19 and that Aadaar-PAN linking has also been extended to June 30 from March 31.

The employee provident fund rules have also been relaxed to allow workers to withdraw a partial amount.

There were no specific grants for the industry in this relief package.