The Union Finance Minister, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman announced a package of Rs 1.70 lakh crore under Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana within 36 hours from the announcement of the countrywide lockdown. She mentioned that the Finance Ministry designed this package for the front-line COVID-19 warriors and welfare of the people during this pandemic situation.The government will provide medical insurance coverage of Rs 50 lakh per person nearly to 20 lakh front-line COVID-19 warriors, including Asha workers, sanitary workers, nurses, doctors, and so on.
The financial package benefits have been divided into two forms:
- Food security-related
- DBT- Direct Benefit Transfer
- Food-related relief measures: Around 80 crore people under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana will get an additional 5 kg rice or wheat per person and each household will receive 1 kg of preferred pulse for the next three months. This will be in addition to the 5 kg of rice or wheat per person per month and distributed in two instalments.
- Direct Benefit Transfer: Eight specific announcements were made for the following sections:
- Farmers: To provide a benefit to 8.69 crore farmers, Rs 2,000 (on top of Rs 6,000) will be given as a front-load under the Kisan Samman Nidhi programme. The amount will be credited to the farmer’s bank account by the 1st week of April.
- MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) workers: A wage increase of Rs 20 per day (from Rs 182 to Rs 202) for 100 days has also been announced. This leads to a total increase of Rs 2,000 for 5 crore families.
- Poor Senior Citizen/Poor Widows/Poor Divyang: An ex-gratia of Rs 1,000 will be given to 3 crore poor senior citizens, widows and Divyang (disabled persons). They will receive the amount in two instalments for the next three months.
- Women Registered Under the Jan Dhan Yojana Scheme: Women with Jan Dhan accounts will get an ex-gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for the next three months. This move will benefit around 20 crore women.
- Women/Household Registered Under the Ujjwala Scheme: The 8.3 crore BPL families that hold LPG connections under the Ujjwala scheme will get free LPG cylinders for the next three months.
- Self-Help Groups (NRLM): Now, 63 lakh women SHGs under National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), covering seven crore households, will enjoy collateral-free loans of Rs 20 lakh instead of Rs 10 lakh.
- Organised Sector Workers Through EPFO: Under PMGKY, the Government of India will pay the EPF contribution for both employer and employee (12% each totalling to 24%) for the next three months. Around 80 lakh employees and 4 lakh establishments will benefit from this move. This benefit is available for all those establishments with up to 100 employees and where 90% of those employees draw a salary of less than Rs 15,000 per month.
- Construction Workers: The welfare fund of Rs 31,000 crore will now be available for 3.5 crore registered building and construction workers. The Central Government has directed the state governments to utilise the fund and protect these construction workers.
- District Mineral Fund: The Central Government has also directed the state governments to use the amount available in the district mineral fund for medical testing, screening and other requirements to combat COVID-19.
The EPFO scheme regulations will also be amended to allow the non-refundable advance of 75% of the fund or three months’ salary, whichever is lower. Around 4.8 crores registered EPFO workers will benefit from this amendment.
During the Q&A session, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman said that the packages for the MSMEs and other sectors will be announced if/when it’s required. She also stated that the purpose of this package is to make sure that poor people do not starve and have enough cash in their hands.