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Govt unveils Rs 1.7 lakh cr stimulus to help poor hit by lockdown

Thursday, March 26, 2020

India government on Thursday announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore stimulus that included free foodgrain and cooking gas to poor for three months, and cash doles to women and poor senior citizens as it looked to ease the economic impact of the nationwide lockdown.

While over 80 crore poor ration card holders will each get 5 kg of wheat or rice and one kg of preferred pulses free of cost every month for the next three months, 20.4 crore women having Jan Dhan bank accounts would get one-time cash help of Rs 1,500 spread over three months.

Over 8.3 crore poor women, who were handed out free cooking gas connections since 2016, will get free LPG refills for the next three months, while poor senior citizens, widows and disabled will get an ex-gratia cash of Rs 1,000.

"Since the lockdown has been in force (since Wednesday) and therefore we have come out with a package which will immediately take care of the concerns and welfare of poor and suffering workers and those who need immediate help," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a news conference here.

The package, she said, is being announced within 36 hours of the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by the Prime Minister to protect the nation's 130 crore people from the fast-spreading coronavirus. "We do not want anyone to remain hungry."

She hinted at more announcements if a need arises.

"So, today's measures are very clearly aimed at reaching out with food and money that they need to have it in their hands. We will obviously think about other things. I will gradually address if there is more to attend," she said.

The package included advancing the payment of one-third of the Rs 6,000 a year pre-2019 general election cash dole scheme for farmers, government contributions to retirement funds for the next three months of small companies with 90 per cent of staff earning less than Rs 15,000, and a Rs 50 lakh insurance cover to healthcare workers.

For rural workers, the daily wage under the MNREGA employment guarantee programme has been increased to Rs 202 from Rs 182, benefiting 5 crore workers of about Rs 2,000 in all.

India joins countries -- from the US to Singapore -- that have pledged spending to contain the economic fallout of the pandemic that has infected almost 5 lakh people globally and left over 21,000 dead.

The pandemic has infected 649 persons in India and has killed 13 so far.

While the free food grains and pulses would cost Rs 45,000 crore, Rs 2,000 payment to 8.7 crore farmers under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana will cost Rs 16,000 crore.

The cash to women Jan Dhan account holders will cost Rs 31,000 crore and another Rs 13,000 crore is estimated to be the expenditure for providing free cooking gas.

Sitharaman, however, evaded a reply to questions on how the government will finance the package given that the impact of the closure of businesses across the country will be felt over the next few months and would have a direct bearing on already strained tax collections.

She also did not say if the government will relax budget deficit targets or resort to additional borrowings to fund the programme.

The revised fiscal deficit - the gap between revenue and expenditure - has been put at 3.8 per cent of the GDP in the current fiscal. For the fiscal starting April, the government is targeting a 3.5 per cent fiscal deficit.

"Today's measures are very clearly aimed at reaching out to the poor," she said. "At this stage, I am more concerned about reaching out to those who need help."

With businesses closed during the lockdown, the government will contribute employees as well as employer's contribution to the provident fund for the next three months of companies with up to 100 employees with 90 per cent earning not more than Rs 15,000. The contribution will be a total of 24 per cent of eligible wages.

Also, workers will be allowed to draw a non-refundable advance of 75 per cent from credit in provident fund account or three months salary, whichever is lower, she said.

Sitharaman said the limit of collateral-free loans to 63 lakh women self-help groups is being doubled to Rs 20 lakh, impacting 7 crore households.

The free foodgrain and pulses are over-and-above the existing entitlement through the public distribution system (PDS). The ration card holders can take the foodgrain and pulses from the PDS in two installments, she added.

The government had previously relaxed timelines for meeting tax and other statutory filing requirements as well as allowed companies to divert their philanthropy or CSR funds to support the fight against coronavirus.

These measures and the ones announced on Thursday will be topped up by the expected announcement of interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) at its bi-monthly monetary policy review meet slated next week.

Commenting on the package, Anil Talreja, Partner, Deloitte India said the announcements are is expected to give reprieve to the mass sections of the population. "This is a good way to ensure that the poor and needy get what they deserve. It has ensured that the farmers, poor senior citizens, widows and specified sections of the society as well as people who are attached to the healthcare sectors get rewarded for their hard work and sacrifices".

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Express your comment on this article

Tuesday, March 31, 2020
@PATRIOT....OOPS... lost his mental balance in self isolation... sorry bro..i will pray for your fast recovery and freedom from BARTAN-JAHDU-POCHA at home..

Tuesday, March 31, 2020
@Indian/ HINDI (changing name does not disguise you)
Don''t try to change your tune and pretend that you care for the masses. Your initial post was sarcasm towards the current BJP govt. in India and you talk about running a country like your sambar recipe - easy.
Inherent to democracy is the inclusion of ''everybody'' including imbeciles like you who slow down/ abuse any process and start fault finding and strikes before full understanding.
People who have made a habit to visit ATM for every 100 or 500 rs. are not fit to use an ATM. If you are not familiar with the concept of preparing for a rainy day or keeping at least a month''s expenses on hand including consumables then you should go back to school and try again. Don''t forget an ATM card can also be used to make payments at any POS terminal. The mass confusion and panic during demonetization was a typical Indian response to any problem - act first ask questions later.
You talk about the falling rupee but you forget the ever increasing population of India dependent on virtually the same sources of production.
Your diatribe is at best a failed attempt at generating cheap publicity. Nitpicking and assigning Indian state names to the English lexicon does not make Indian more developed or the rupee stronger. Go get a life and manage your own house before trying to teach the govt. how to run a country - mr. ARMCHAIR RAMBO.

As mentioned earlier, development is cumulative. In order to undo mistakes of the past, an entire elected term in office might not be enough, more so with citizens like you who think that Rajnikanth movies are the model for running a country :/
What a joke !!

Monday, March 30, 2020
@ Patriot... were you standing in the ATM que for 3 days to withdraw your own money during demonetization? If not than just shutup n forget your IQ''s cause you will never feel the pain and anguish and hardships our families and friends felt during your so called SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT....

Monday, March 30, 2020
@ Patriotic...Your comments clearly shows how much deficiency u have in your upbringing cause out of the blue you just thought about cudappa (wrong spelling..check ur English or hinglish) out of all the places in india... u have no empathy for the poor n needy. No body has to sit on a high horse or have a green card from usa or europe to feel talk with no connection to what i had wrote or the point i had discussed in my comments.. balcony clapping n utensil banging is the best IQ level u and your likes can reach...wait for ur sustainable development until the rupee will reach the value of sri lankan rupee. there was a time when rupee was 22 kd to a thousand it is hovering around
4 kd to a 1000 rupee.. if that is ur sustainable development which comes in incremental process than i guess ur brain is going the opposite direction... haha..goodluck with ur high IQ..

Monday, March 30, 2020
When you don''t run a country of 138+ crore people with all the politics and bureaucracy since 1947, it is very easy to pass comments from your high horse here in Kuwait. Why don''t you pass such comments from your state in cudappa & see how long you will survive. You talk about a country like you read it in a book. People like you are born to pick faults and pass comments at the drop of a hat. In a populous country without a balanced proportion of infrastructure to support every single citizen, collateral damage is a reality. If you are so concerned about feeding and clothing the poor, why don''t you join a social organization and do just that rather than embarrassing yourself. If you are so capable why haven''t you got green card for some European or American country? Let me guess.. you are just a talker.
Sustainable development is an incremental process - usually small and in several multiples. Sadly, a pea brain like yourself with the IQ of a chicken will not be able to grasp such an explanation. JAI HIND!

Monday, March 30, 2020 will take whatever the govt you know why DEMOCRACY was invented or still duffer about it ? it was created so that there is an opposition party to the government and therefore the govt cannot do or say anything they like. if we follow what you say being blind patriotic, that gives rise to authoritarian n fanatic government.. do you agree the exodus of the poor migrant workers who have no food or money and cannot reach their houses cause the silly government had no clue this will happen.. what type of planning is this...lockdown in 4 hrs ??? but do you remember...the foolish balcony clapping and banging utensil advisory was given 2 days in advance.. so why not give same 2 days notice for total lockdown so the needy people can arrange their life.. and what passport subject you talking about...the migrant workers dont have any passport and even if they had, this passport will not buy them any food or facilities... as Rajnikant says....MIND IT ya patriotic

Sunday, March 29, 2020
Still waiting for the 15 lakhs😁 and the acche Din... been 6 years now did not come...
instead Corona came

Sunday, March 29, 2020
Whatever your misgivings with your country govt., if you call yourself Indian respect your own govt. Their shame is your shame, their victory is yours also. No wonder we Indian expats are treated like shit because we don''t know how to respect our own country. No pride whatsoever, not even little. Don''t forget what is written on your Indian Passport. JAI HIND !!

Sunday, March 29, 2020
BJP as usual... better name for BJP .....Bartan-Jhadu-Pocha.. hahha

Friday, March 27, 2020
Only announced & unveils but no disbursements. Just to keep calm of poor people’s

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