BH CORRESPONDENT, New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a food security scheme to help the economically weaker sections to tide over the added challenge of lockdown and job loss during the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus.
The Rs 1,70,000-crore scheme, dubbed the ‘Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Scheme’ will “address the concerns of poor, migrant workers and those who need help”, Sitharaman said, adding that the government would ensure that “no one will go hungry”.
A special Rs 50 lakh medical insurance cover is being offered to the frontline workers toiling to avert the health crisis — the doctors and their support staff — she said.
The Finance Minister, who is heading the task force evaluating the financial fallout of this outbreak and charting out the course ahead, outlined a bailout package for the people and industry.
Besides food, it had a cash component that was divided under eight heads that covered all sections of society, including pensioners, women and the specially-abled, the minister said.
“The poor and the needy will get 5 kg additional wheat and rice free of cost for the next three months over and above what they are entitled under the National Food Security Act. They will also get 1 kg pulses free for next three months,” the minister said.
For the farmers, Sitharaman said, the government would release the first tranche of their yearly payment of Rs 6,000. Women who have Jan Dhan accounts will get an ex-gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for the next three months. This will benefit over 20 crore women. Across the country, three crore widows, pensioners and the specially-abled would receive a one-time ex-gratia payment of Rs 1,000, the minister said.
Nearly 8.3 crore families who are below poverty line will get free cooking gas cylinders for the next three months. Those under the women self-help groups under the Deen Dayal Yojana who are eligible for collateral-free loans of up to Rs 10 lakh can now get Rs 20 lakh.
For the organised sector, the minister announced a hike in provident funds and withdrawal limits. The Centre will pay the PF for both the employee and employer for the next three months for firms that have up to 100 employees and 90 per cent of the employees earn less than Rs 15,000 per month.
These employees would be able to get non-refundable advance to 75 per cent from the fund or three months’ wages — whichever is less — from their EPFO.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DEAL
FOR FARMERS: 8.69 crore farmers will benefit through the announcement of direct cash transfers. Installment of Rs 2000 will be transferred in their account in the first week of April.
For MGNREGA WORKERS: The government has increased wages under the scheme by Rs 2000 per work on average as additional income. This will benefit five crore families.
FOR POOR WIDOWS/PENSIONERS/DIVYANG: One-time ex-gratia additional support of Rs 1000 announced. This will be given through direct benefit transfer (DBT) in two installments in three months. This will benefit three crore widows, pensioners and divyang.
FOR WOMEN JAN DHAN ACCOUNT HOLDERS: A support of Rs 500 per month for the next three month, so that these women are able to run their household in this hour of crisis. This will benefit 20 crore such women. The money will be transferred through DBT.
FOR THOSE COVERED UNDER THE UJJWALA SCHEME: The nearly 8.3 crore BPL families, who were benefitted by the scheme, will be provided three cylinders for the next three months.
FOR WOMEN SELF-HELP GROUPS: There are 63 lakh SHGs which benefit seven crore households in the country. The finance minister has announced doubling of collateral-free loans (from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh) for the SHGs.
FOR ORGANISED SECTOR WORKERS: Government of India will pay the EPF controbution — both for employer (12%) and employee (12%) — for the next three months so that nobody suffers due to loss of continuity in the EPFO contribution. This is for all those establishment who have upto 100 employees, and 90 per cent of who draw Rs 15,000 salary per month. The second announcement will benefit 80 lakh employee — the EPFO scheme’s regulations will be amended to allow non-refundable advance of 75 per cent of the amount standing to the credit of the member (for contingency expenditure), or three-month wages, whichever is lower. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers.
FOR CONSTRUCTION WORKERS: There is a welfare fund for construction workers. Sitharaman said that the central government will direct the state governments to utilise Rs 31,000 crore in that fund to and protect thse workers against any economic disruption. This will benefit 3.5 crore workers.