New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a major announcement made on Thursday has said that the centre would spend Rs 170,000 crores as part of a relief package to tackle with Coronavirus.
Rs 1.7 lakh crores will be spent to protect weaker sections of the society from the economic fallout of COVID-19. Explaining details of the PM Garib Kalyan Scheme, Sitharaman said the economic measures would help benefit poor migrant workers as well as rural men and women. The allocation would ensure that no one turned hungry during the times of the pandemic.
Explaining the details, Sitharaman said that the scheme would work via direct cash transfer, as one set of measures, while another set will include food security-related measures. "We do not want anyone to remain hungry, so we will be giving enough to take care of their foodgrain requirement, protein requirement in terms of pulses," the minister added.
"On the other hand, they should also not remain without money in hand. So several measures through DBT are being taken so that money reaches them so that they can have money in their hands."
The scheme touches several areas and people including front-line health workers risking their lives in treating patients during the pandemic coronavirus. An insurance of Rs 50 lakhs has been commissioned to insure every "warrior". Explaining the benefits, the Finance Minister said the insurance will apply to ASHA workers, Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics etc.
8 Direct debit schemes have been rolled out and here is a summary of the salient features announced by the Finance Minister on Thursday:
1. Government to provide 3 free cooking gas cylinders for the next 3 months under its Ujjwala Scheme. This will benefit 8 crore BPL families.
2. Women JanDhan account holders to get an ex gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for the next 3 months. This is expected to benefit 20 crore women.
3. Relief for to Old aged persons, widows & Divyang : Additional one time ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 in two installments over next 3 months through DBT. This will benefit 3 crore beneficiaries.
4. Wage increase in MGNREGA. This will result in additional income of Rs 2000 per worker and benefit 5 crore families
5. Farmers: Advance 1st installment of Rs 2,000 to be released as part of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. This will benefit 8.69 crore farmers.
6. Food: Extra Ration for 3 months for poor. 80 cr poor individuals will to get 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month for next three months.
7. Women entrepreneurs: Collateral-free Loans upto Rs 20Lakh instead of present Rs 10 Lakh. Will help 63 Lakh SHGs (Self Help Groups) benefiting 7 crore households.
The Finance Minister also explained details of how it was helping in contributing to the EPFO scheme. "Govt of India will pay the EPF contribution of both employee and employer which is 12 percent each. This is together 24 percent. That will be paid for the next 3 months so that nobody suffers because the EPF contribution has been locked," said the Finance Minister.
The scheme will be made applicable only to firms which upto 100 employees and 90% of those with wages of up to Rs 15,000 per month. The Finance Ministry said that the measure would help more than 80 lakh wage earners and 4 lakh companies.
Announcements were also made briefly for the organized sector. PF schemes regulation will be soon amended while EPF schemes regulation have been tweaked to allow subscribers to seek non-refundable advance of 75 percent amount or 3 months of wages whichever is lower. Sitharaman said this benefit will come in handy for 4.8 crore workers registered with EPF.
During the announcement, MoS for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur also gave details on Building workers Fund of Rs 31,000 crores and suggested that state governments could utilize this fund for the better of Mazdoors during the economic disruption.
During the Q&A session, a volley of questions related to economic measures including relaxation on EMIs and a plan to save MSMEs/SMEs were put to the Finance Minister. The FM has not declined on any of the questions and hinted that more such reforms could be announced in due course.
The detailed press conference can be viewed here: