The Centre on Thursday announced a 1.70 lakh crore package for the economically weaker section of the society as India prepared to deal with the economic fallout of the 21-day lockdown announced two days ago by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of Novel Coronavirus, which has claimed over 20,000 lives world over.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, addressing a press conference, said the economic package will be implemented with immediate effect, adding the government will extend first cash doles from April 1.
Sitharam said the new scheme will "address the concerns of poor, migrant workers and those who need help", adding the government will make sure "no one goes hungry".
Under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan scheme, the finance minister said that 80 crore poor people will get 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month for the next three months.
Besides this, as many as 20.5 crore women Jan Dhan Account holders will get Rs 500 per month for next three months to run their households. For poor senior citizens, widow and disabled will get an ex-gratia of Rs 1,000.
The daily wage under MNREGA has been increased to Rs 202 a day from Rs 182 to benefit 5 crore workers. The minister said the government will front-load Rs 2,000 payment to farmers in the first week of April under the existing PM Kishan Yojana to benefit 8.69 crore farmers.
Also, the beneficiaries of Ujjwala LPG scheme will get free cooking gas for the next three months, she said. All this forms part of the Rs 1.70 lakh crore Gramin Kalyan Package.
The finance minister also announced a Rs 50 lakh insurance cover for healthcare workers, who are at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
The government will also pay the employee provident fund (EPF) contribution both of the employer and the employee (12 percent each) for the next three months, Sithraman said. The move will benefit over 4.8 crore employees in the organised sector.
Sitharaman said the PF contribution decision has been taken to ensure that employees' EPF continuity is not lost.
This will be applicable to all those establishments which have employed up to 100 employees and about 90 percent of whom earn Rs 15,000 per month, she added.
The government will also amend the regulations for the scheme to allow employees draw up to 75 per cent of their non-refundable advance or up to three months of wages, whichever is lower.
(With inputs from agencies)