Coronavirus: Govt economic relief package puts the last man first

FM asks Niti Aayog to map all industrial activities for incorporating them into PM Gati Shakti

New Delhi: Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a slew of measures on Thursay as part of an economic relief package meant to address the crisis unleashed by the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of economic activities. The Phase 1 of the economic relief package puts the last man first and aims to provide financial aid for the poor and insurance cover to those working on the frontlines in the fight against Coronavirus.

The Finance Minister had announced a number of measures on March 24, including extension of tax deadlines, easing minimum balance norms for savings account, and increasing threshold of insolvency filing to Rs 1 crore from Rs 1 lakh. Thursday’s announcements are only the first phase of provisions announced by the government. The rest of the economic relief package will be unveiled by the government in the days to come.

Here are key highlights from the economic relief package:

  • PM Gareeb Kalyan Scheme will entail Rs 1.7 lakh crore. It will include both cash transfer and food security for the poor, in both urban and rural areas and migrant workers.
  • The economic relief package provides an insurance cover worth Rs 50 lakh for sanitation workers, ASHA workers, doctors, nurses, and paramedics, in case they need it as they are on the frontlines of the battle against Coronavirus.
  • Over and above 5kg of rice/wheat that is already given, another 5 kg per person will be given free to around 80 crore people through PDS. Besides, 1 kg of preferred and region-specific choice of a pulse will also be given.
  • Farmers: The first installment of Rs 2,000 of PM Kisan will be given in the first week of April. 8.69 cr farmers will get immediate benefits out of it.
  • MNREGA: Increase in wage rate from Rs 182 to Rs 202, amounting to an increase of Rs 2,000 per worker leading to benefitting 5 crore people.
  • Old age/widows: An additional ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 for the next three months available in two installments. It will benefit 3 crore widows and senior citizens.
  • Women Jan Dhan account holders: Ex gratia of Rs 500 per month for the next three months. This will benefit 20 crore women.
  • Women Ujjawala scheme beneficiaries: For three months, free cylinders. Will benefit 8.3 crore BPL families.
  • Women self-help groups: Under the Deen Dayal National Livelihood Mission, collateral-free loan will be given up to Rs 20 lakh, up from Rs 10 lakh earlier. This will impact 7 crore holders through 63 lakh SHGs.
  • Organised sector: The government will pay the EPF contribution of both of the employer and the employee put together, ie 24 percent, for the next three months. This is for those establishments with up to 100 employees, 90 percent of them earning less than Rs 15,000.
  • For organised sector, EPFO regulation will be amended so that workers can draw up to 75 percent for their contingency expenditure non-refundable advance or three months of wages in advance whichever is less. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers.
  • Construction workers: The state governments have been directed to use the welfare fund for building and construction labourers in order to help those who are facing economic disruption because of the lockdown.
  • Utilise the funds available under the district mineral fund for testing activities, medical screening, providing health attention needed to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.