New Delhi, March 26, 2020:
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday came up with an economic relief package for the ones who have been directly affected by the 21-day lockdown due to coronavirus.
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The economic relief package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore has the Garib Kalyan Yojana, which aims to benefit 80 crore poor or two-third of the population. The Government under this scheme will provide 5 kg rice or wheat free for the next three months. This is in addition to the 5 kg ration that they already get. The scheme also provides them the option of choosing their own preferred pulses of 1 kg.
8 crore BPL families will be given free cylinders for the next three months. “We have come with a package that will immediately help those affected directly, those migrants workers, urban and rural poor. We are looking both at cash transfers as well as food security measures,” said Sitharaman, while announcing the benefits.
To benefit the construction workers, the Government has decided to direct the State Governments to use Funds under Buildings and other Construction Workers Act. The Finance Minister said, “It has Rs 31,000 crore in it. It has 3.5 crore registered workers. We intent to tell states to utilize this fund to provide assistance to workers.”
She added that the District Fund will also be used to augment medical testing, screening and other requirements to fight coronavirus. Finance Minister Sitharaman has announced Rs 50 lakh medical cover per person for the government’s sanitation workers, ASHA workers, doctors, paramedics, others, if they need it. The scheme is expected to benefit 20 lakh such workers.
The first installment of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana to the Farmers will be delivered by April. Over 8 crore farmers are expected to benefit from this. The Government has announced hike in MNREGA wages from Rs 182 to Rs 202 a day (Rs 2,000 per worker additional), which is expected to benefit some five crore families.
An ex-gratia of Rs 1,000 for widows, old-aged and Rs 500 ex-gratia for 20 crore women for the next three months have been announced.
It may be mentioned here that the coronavirus or COVID-19 cases continue to soar across the country and across the world. India has ordered a 21-day lockdown following the rising cases of corona. In these 21 days, workers like the daily wage laborers and small scale businesses are the worst-hit of all. This economic relief package has come at a time when the country is in need of a stronger foundation.
In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has confirmed that the number of cases has risen to 649 (602 of those are from India and the rest are foreign nationals visiting the country). 42 of those afflicted have been cured or discharged. The death too continues to rise, with 13 people killed so far. The latest death in India has been reported from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, in another setback to the working class population of the country, Apple’s manufacturing partners Foxconn and Wistron have temporarily closed their production facilities in the country keeping the safety of the workers and comply with the government’s decision at their manufacturing plants.
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