Nirmala Sitharaman announces ₹1.70 lakh crore package for poor

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a Rs. 1.70 lakh crore package which is likely to benefit 80 crore people.

In her second media conference in a week, Ms. Sitharaman announced a slew of welfare decisions as the nation is under lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are the highlights from her speech:

  • The Finance Minister announced ₹1.70 lakh crore package Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana, targetting 80 crore people.
  • Under the scheme, for next three months, each person will get additional 5 kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to 5 kg per month already given under PDS. One kg of pulses will be provided per household, according to regional preferences.
  • Cash transfers, based on direct benefit transfer, will be given to farmers, MGNREGA workers, poor widows, pensioners and disabled people, women with Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, women beneficiaries under Ujjwala scheme, women self-help groups, organised sector workers, construction workers, district mineral fund.
  • The first instalment of PM-KISAN for 2020-21, which is ₹2,000, will be given in April itself. As many as  8.69 crore farmers are likely to get immediate benefit.
  • The wages of MGNREGA workers has been increased from Rs. 182 to ₹202 per day. This will benefit 5 crore families, and will result in an additional ₹2,000 given per worker. Social distancing norms must be followed at MGNREGA worksites during this period.
  • For poor pensioners, widows and disabled, govt will give ex-gratia, one time amount of ₹1,000 in two instalments over nxt three months. Expected to benefit 3 crore poor people above 60 years, widows and disabled people.
  • For 20 crore women with Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, an ex-gratia amount of ₹500 per month for next three months will be given, so they can run the affairs of their households.
  • For poor pensioners, widows and disabled, govt will give ex-gratia, one time amount of ₹1,000 in two instalments over next three months. Expected to benefit 3 crore poor people above 60 years, widows and disabled people.
  • For 20 crore women with Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, an ex-gratia amount of ₹500 per month for next three months will be given, so they can run the affairs of their households.
  • For the beneficiaries of Ujjwala scheme who were given free gas connections, govt will give free gas cylinders for three months. It will benefit 8.3 crore BPL families.
  • There are 63 lakh Women self help groups which benefit seven crore households. Under the National Rural Livelihood Mission, they get up to ₹10 lakh collateral free loans. It will now be doubled to ₹20 lakh, so that they will have money in hand without worry about collateral.
  • For organised sector workers, Centre will pay EPF contribution of both employer and employee (total of 24%) for next three months. This is for establishments up to 100 employees, of which 90% earn less than ₹15,000 per month.
  • The Employees Provident Fund scheme regulations will be amended to allow non-refundable advance of 75% of the amount standing to credit of the member, or 3 months worth of wages, whichever is lower. This will benefit 4.8 crore organised sector workers registered with EPFO. This will benefit 80 lakh employees, and incentivise 4 lakh establishments.
  • There is a welfare fund of ₹31,000 for building and other construction workers, which has 3.5 crore registered workers. Centre will direct State governments to provide assistance and support to the registered construction workers facing economic disruption due to the lockdown.
  • The Finance Minister said she will ask State governments to use money available under district mineral funds to use for medical screening, testing and treatment.
  • These announcements come into effect immediately. We have immediately responded, within 36 hours of the lockdown, providing support first to the poorest of the poor.

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