Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a Rs 1.70 lakh crore fiscal stimulus plan to aid the economy's fight against the rapidly-spreading coronavirus pandemic. The relief measures included direct cash transfers (under the DBT or Direct Benefit Transfer scheme) and food security-related steps aimed at giving relief to the poor workers hit by the 21-day countrywide lockdown that began this week. Addressing the media during market hours, Nirmala Sitharaman said the government has been working to protect the interests of those affected directly since the coronavirus-induced lockdown. "We have come with a package which will immediately take care of the welfare concerns of the poor and suffering workers, and those who need immediate help," said the Finance Minister.
The relief measures come at a time when hopes of a stimulus package to strengthen the economy against the coronavirus pushed equity markets higher and put them on track to close in the green for the third session in a row.
Many economists have awarned of a sharp economic impact of the outbreak on India, which is already staring at the worst pace of annual GDP expansion recorded in more than 11 years.
Here are highlights of what the Finance Minister said:
A package is ready for the poor, including migrant workers, urban and rural poor, who need immediate help
No one will go hungry
- Package is worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore
- Medical insurance cover worth Rs 50 lakh per person for those putting their own life at risk
- These include doctors, paramedic/healthcare workers and ASHA workers dealing with coronavirus outbreak
- 20 lakh workers to benefit from this initiative
- 80 crore people to benefit from Rs 1.70 lakh-crore package under PM Garib Kalyan scheme
- They will get either 5 KGs of rice or 5 KGs of wheat in next three months, in addition to existing allotment; 1 KG pulse of choice
- Not even one poor person will be left without food
- Cash transfer will be made under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme
- Wage increase under MGNREGA; from Rs 182 to Rs 202
- 5 crore people to benefit, will lead to increase in income by Rs 2,000
- Rs 1,000 additional amount to be provided to poor senior citizens, widows and disabled, in two instalments through DBT
- 3 crore people will benefit from this measure
- 20.5 crore Jan Dhan accounts held by women to be credited with additional Rs 500 a month through DBT
- Two announcements fro organised sector:
- Government will pay EPF contribution (for 12% on behalf of employers and employees each) for next three months for establishments with up to 100 employees and 90 per cent of whom draw less than Rs 15,000/month; 80 lakh workers, 4 lakh organisations to benefit
- EPF scheme regulation to be amended to permit withdrawal of up to 75 per cent of non-refundable advance or three months wages, whichever lower; 4.8 crore subscribers to benefit
- Request state government to utilize District Mineral Fund for screening and testing