Coronavirus: Govt unveils Rs 1.7 lakh Cr package to deal with economic cost of lockdown
The government on Thursday unveiled a Rs 1.70 lakh crore economic package involving free foodgrain and cooking gas to poor for the next three months, one-time doles to women and poor senior citizens, higher wages to workers and measures to boost liquidity of employees as it looked to contain the impact of unprecedented nationwide lockdown.
Over 80 crore ration card holders will each get five kg of wheat or rice and one kg of preferred pulses free of cost every month for the next three months to ensure that poor are not hungry because of the close down of businesses.
Poor women, who got free cooking gas under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana during the last three years, will get free LPG refills in the next three months to tide over tight finance following the nationwide lockdown, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, adding this will benefit 8.3 crore women.
Besides, 20.5 crore women Jan Dhan Account holders will get Rs 500 per month for the next three months, while poor senior citizens, widows and disabled will get a one-time cash dole of Rs 1,000.
For workers, the daily wage under the MGNREGA has been increased to Rs 202 from Rs 182, benefiting 5 crore workers who stand to gain about Rs 2,000 in all.
Also, the government will front-load Rs 2,000 payments to farmers in the first week of April under the existing PM Kisan Yojana to benefit 8.69 crore farmers.
With businesses closed during the lockdown, the government will contribute employees as well as employer's contribution to the provident fund for the next three months of companies with up to 100 employees with 90 percent earning not more than Rs 15,000. The contribution will be a total of 24 percent of eligible wages.
Also, workers will be allowed to draw a non-refundable advance of 75 percent from credit in provident fund account or three months salary, whichever is lower, she said.
Sitharaman said the limit of collateral-free loans to 63 lakh women self-help groups is being doubled to Rs 20 lakh, impacting seven crore households.
The free food grains and pulses are over-and-above the existing entitlement through the public distribution system (PDS). The ration card holders can take the food grains and pulses from the PDS in two instalments, she added.
"This measure will ensure no gareeb (poor) remains hungry," Sitharaman said.
According to official data, the government has a total of 58.49 million tonnes of foodgrain in the FCI godowns so far. Out of which, rice is 30.97 million tonnes and wheat 27.52 million tonnes.
The foodgrain stock is much higher than the required norm of maintaining a reserve of about 21 million tonnes as on April 1.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)