April 2020
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COVID-19 lockdown: Govt announces 1.7 lakh cr package for poor
New Delhi: Almost within 36 hours of 21-day lockdown declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government on Thursday announced a mega relief package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore to help out the farmers, migrant workers and urban and rural poor. Briefing media, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said they have come up with Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan scheme to help the migrant workers and the poor. Ms Sitharaman said an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per person will be given for three months to Covid-19 warriors who are exposing themselves to the virus. They include doctors, paramedics, healthcare workers, sanitation workers, ASHA workers dealing with coronavirus outbreak.

The Finance Minister maintained that that 5 kg extra rice or wheat will be given for the next three months for free apart from 5 kg already being given to 80 crore people. She said that additionally, one kg of preferred pulses will also be given per family for free. She made eight special announcements for farmers, MGREGA workers, poor widow pensioners divyang, women under Jan Dhan Yojana, Poor householders under Ujjwala scheme, Self Help Groups, EPFO in organised sector and the District mineral fund.

Announcing the economic package to address the deprived ''who need immediate relief'', Ms Sitharaman stressed that the government does not want any poor to go hungry. ''''Today''s measures are intended at reaching out to the poorest of the poor, with food and money in hands, so that they do not face difficulties in buying essential supplies and meeting essential needs,'''' the Minister said. She said the Government has decided to give free LPG cylinders to women beneficiaries of Ujjwala scheme which will benefit as many as 8.3 crore BPL families. The Minister said the government will provide three free cooking gas cylinders for the next three months.

She thanked all the frontline warriors- ASHA workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and described them as ''''Gods in while costumes'''' and announced Rs 50 lakh per person as Medical insurance cover as part of Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana. This will benefit 20 lakh workers. Under the Yojana, women Jan Dhan account holders will get an ex gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for next three months and this will benefit 20 crore women of the country. In the relief package,old aged persons, widows and Divyang will receive an additional one time ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 in two installments over next 3 months through DBT and this will to benefit three crore such beneficiaries.

She said in relief to farmers, an advance first installment of Rs 2,000 will be released as part of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana and this will benefit 8.69 crore farmers. Government announced a wage increase in MGNREGA workers which will result in addition income of Rs 2000 per worker and will benefit 5 crore families.

In the relief package, women Self Help Groups will get collateral-free loans upto Rs 20 lakh instead of present Rs 10 lakh, the Minister said. This package will immediately impact 63 lakh SHGs benefitting 7 crore households, she added. In the organised sector, Ms Sithraman said the Provident Fund Scheme regulations will be amended because of Coronavirus outbreak and workers can draw 75 per cent of deposit or 3-month wages, whichever is lower, as non-refundable advance. The measure will benefit 4.8 crore workers registered with the EPFO. She said the government of India will pay the EPF contribution - of both employer and employee (12 per cent each) - for the next three months, so that nobody suffers due to loss of continuity in EPF contribution, and this is for all such establishments which have less than 100 employees, out of which 90 per cent draw less than Rs 15,000 per month as wages or salary. This announcement will benefit 4.8 crore employees who are registered with the EPFO, she added.

Ms Sitharaman said states will be asked to utilise Central Government Fund for welfare of construction workers and labourers to provide assistance and support to them, against economic disruption, thus benefitting 3.5 crore workers registered with the Fund, amounting to Rs 31,000 crore. She also said she would request states to utilise funds under District Mineral Fund to scale up medical testing, screening and other activities required to preventing spread of the pandemic. The Minister said for the benefit of people banking services will come under essential services and ATMs, bank mitras, Rupay card are there to facilitate the people. The government on Tuesday announced a variety of exemptions to the general public and businessmen related to income tax returns and last date of compliances among others.

Ms Sitharaman had made several announcements related to Income Tax, Goods and Services Tax, Customs and Excise, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Law, Banking, Fisheries among others and said the compliance date has been extended to June 30 in most of the cases.

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