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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday, announced a relief package worth Rs 1.70 lakh crore for various sectors of the nation, to tackle financial difficulties arising from the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

The newly declared Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Scheme will focus for economic relief primarily to migrant laborers and daily wage laborers, which includes a mix of food security and direct cash transfer benefits to the poor families during the lockdown.

“A package is ready for the poor who need immediate help like migrant workers and urban and rural poor. No one will go hungry. The package is worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore,” stated Sitharaman while addressing the media regarding the relief package.

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, migrant workers in major cities have been struggling to obtain essential supplies since the 21-day lockdown began. Several of them are also at risk of losing their income and jobs. Thus, the relief package is likely to help in cushioning the financial losses caused by the countrywide lockdown to control the outbreak of virulent pandemic disease.

Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna

  • Encompassing around 80 crore poor people, the scheme provides for additional five kilos of rice/wheat, over the five kilos they already get, along with one kilo of preferred pulse, per household for a period of three months. This can be availed in two installments.
  • The government would bear the expenditure of Rs 40,000 crores for undertaking these measures.

Special Insurance Scheme

  • Finance Minister has further announced that there will be Rs 50 lakh insurance cover for each healthcare worker for three months.
  • All the Safai Karamcharis (Cleaners), ward-boys, nurses, paramedics, technicians, doctors and specialists, and other health would be covered by a special insurance scheme.
  • Further, while treating COVID-19 patients, if any health professional meets with some accident, he/she would be compensated with an amount of Rs 50 Lakh under the newly proposed scheme.

Direct Benefit Transfer

Direct cash transfers have been introduced for a large number of affected people including senior citizens, widows, farmers and daily wage laborers.

  • Under the Kisan Samman Nidhi, around 8.69 crore farmers are likely to be immediately benefited through direct cash transfers. The first installment of Rs 2,000 of PM Kisan will be given in the first week of April.
  • Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, wages of workers are to be increased by Rs 2000 per worker on an average, as an additional income to help daily wage laborers.
  • Around three crore senior citizens, persons with disabilities and widows will get an ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 for the next three months, available in two installments.
  • 20 crore Women Jan Dhan Account holders will get an ex-gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for the next three months.
  • Under the Ujjawala Scheme, around 8.3 crore BPL families will get free cylinders for three months.
  • Under the Deen Dayal National Livelihood Mission, for all the self-help groups, the collateral-free loan has been doubled from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh, which is likely to impact on 7 crore holders through 63 lakh SHGs.
  • To assist the loss of continuity in the EPFO contributions, the Government of India will pay the EPF contribution – both for employer (12%) and employee (12%) – for the next three months. This extends to the establishments which have up to 100 employees, and 90 percent of who draw Rs 15,000 salary per month. Further, for the benefit of 80 lakh employee – the EPFO scheme’s regulations will be amended to allow the non-refundable advance of 75 percent 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.
  • In the welfare fund for construction workers, the central government will direct the state governments to utilize Rs 31,000 crore of those funds to protect the construction workers against any economic disruption, which is likely to benefit 3.5 crore workers.

Earlier, on 24 March, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has extended the last date to file Income Tax and Goods and Services (GST) returns and Aadhaar-PAN linkage for the purpose of filing IT returns, to 30 June, in view of the outrageous spread of COVID-19.

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