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Centre announces Rs 1.7 trillion economic package to combat COVID-19 lockdown

Thursday, 26 Mar 2020
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The Central government on 26 March 2020 announced an economic package of Rs 1.7 trillion for migrant workers, urban and rural poor hit by the COVID-19 lockdown. The fund will be available through the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Scheme.

All those at the frontline of fighting the Covid-19 outbreak such as doctors, Asha workers, paramedics, sanitation workers, nurses will be provided medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per person.

Under the newly-launched Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna, 80 crore people will get five kg of wheat or rice each month for the next three months for free of cost above the five kg which they already get. Besides, one kg of pulse for each household will also be given.

The first instalment of Rs 2,000 under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi or PM Kishan Scheme will be transferred to the accounts of 8.69 crore farmers in April 2020. The scheme provides Rs 6,000 per year.

The government has also hiked regular wages to Rs 202 per day from Rs 182 per day under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), benefitting five crore families.

The hike in wages is likely to result in additional income of Rs 2,000 per worker. The Centre also announced a one-time payment of Rs 1,000 to elderly poor, widows and divyangs in two instalments over the next three months. This will benefit three crore people. The government also announced a one-time transfer of Rs 500 per month to Jan Dhan accounts of 20 crore women over the next three months.

About 8.3 crore below poverty line families will be provided free cooking gas cylinders for three months under the Ujjwala Scheme. The government announced doubling collateral-free loans to 63 lakh women self-help groups to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh. This will benefit seven crore households.

The Union Ministry of Finance also said the government will, for the next three months, make Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) contribution of 12 percent each for both employers and employees for establishments which have up to 100 employees and 90 percent of whom earn a salary below Rs 15,000 per month.

The government will amend the provident fund scheme regulation to allow non-refundable advance of 75 percent from the fund for contingency expenditure or three months of wages, whichever is lower. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers.

The Centre will direct state governments to use the existing welfare fund with Rs 31,000 crore reserves to provide assistance to 3.5 crore construction workers to protect them from economic disruption.

The state governments will be asked to use district mineral funds to supplement medical testing and screening activities that are necessary to fight the spread of COVID -19.

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