Govt Announces Rs 1.7L Cr Economic Package; Cash Transfers, Food Aid to Help Poor Tide Over Lockdown

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana scheme, an economic relief package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore to help the poor tide over financial distress arising because of the national lockdown imposed to check the spread of coronavirus in India.

The scheme will work through cash transfers and lays special focus on providing food security to the poor and women.

Under the Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (food scheme), 80 crore people will be benefitted, said Sitharaman. "Every one under this scheme will get 5 kg of wheat/rice for free in addition to what they are already getting. We will also give one kg of one choice of pulse to each household under this scheme for the next three months. They can take it in two installments also," said Sitharaman.

The finance minister announced medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per health worker for three months. This is expected to benefit 20 lakh health workers.

Centre will also contribute 24 per cent towards EPF for firms with up to 100 employees in which 90 per cent employees earn less than Rs 15,000 per month.

Centre will pay the EPF0 contribution both, of the employer and of the employee for the next three months, said Sitharaman.

According to the scheme, state governments will be directed under Buildings and Other Construction Workers’ Fund to utilise an existing Rs 31,000 crore welfare fund for benefit of 3.5 crore construction workers.

Under the Ujjwala scheme, women will be given free LPG cylinders for the next three months, which will benefit 8.3 crore families below poverty line.

Women Jan Dhan account holders will get Rs 500 per month for the next three months. “There are 63 lakh self-help groups for women in the country. They get up to Rs 10 lakh collateral-free loans right now. We are doubling that to Rs 20 lakh,” the Finance Minister said.

The first instalment of cash transfers will be given to 8.69 crore farmers as part of PM-KISAN scheme.

"Wage increase under MNREGA scheme will benefit 5 crore families. Wage increase will result in additional income of Rs 2,000 per worker," said the minister.

"The government has been working so that those affected due to the novel coronavirus since the lockdown commenced on the intervening night of 24-25 March, will be reached out. We have come up with a package which will take care of the welfare concerns of the poor," she added.