Amid the coronavirus crisis, the Central Government of India has announced a relief package of Rs. 1.70 crores ($22 billion) under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. This is done with an objective to provide relief and assistance to urban and rural poor, farmers, daily-wage workers, migrant workers, women and other needy people. Announcement of the relief package was made immediately after the declaration of 21 days lockdown in the entire nation. This scheme intends to ensure that no one remains hungry during the lockdown period. It is estimated that nearly 80 crores Indians would benefit from this relief package.
New Measures under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana was launched by the Prime Minister Modi’s government in 2016 with an objective to control black money. However, given the prevailing health and economic crisis due to COVID-19 outbreak, the government has introduced some new measures under the scheme as an immediate response. Government’s primary approach is twofold vis-à-vis the present relief package. Firstly, it will ensure a steady supply of food and cooking gas to poor people and secondly, it will ease cash woes of the vulnerable sections of society.
Key Features of the Relief Package
|1||Healthcare workers fighting COVID-19||Insurance cover of Rs 50 Lakh each.|
|2||Poor||5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free for the next 3 months|
|3||Poor||Free of cost gas cylinders to 8 crore families for next 3 months under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana|
|4||20 crore women Jan-Dhan Account Holder||Rs 500 per month for next three months|
|5||MGNREGA workers||Rs 202 a day from Rs 182. It will benefit 13.62 crore families|
|6||3 crore poor senior citizen, poor widows and poor disabled||An ex-gratia of Rs 1,000|
|7||Farmers||First instalment of Rs 2,000 to be paid in first week of April under PM Kisan Yojana (targeted to benefit 8.7 crore farmers. Under this scheme farmers are receiving benefit of Rs. 6000 per year).|
|8||Building and construction workers||State governments ordered (Building & Construction Worker) BOCW funds to provide relief|
|9||Employees Provident Fund beneficiaries (organised sector)||EPF Regulations to include Pandemic as the reason to allow non-refundable advance of 75 percent of the amount or three months of the wages, whichever is lower, from their accounts.|
|10||Low wage earners (below Rs. 15000 per month in organised sector)||Government proposes to pay 24 percent of their monthly wages into their PF accounts for next three months to avoid employment disruption.|
|11||Self Help Groups||Limit of collateral free lending would be increased from Rs 10 to Rs 20 lakhs.|
|12||People benefitted by District Mineral Funds.||State Governments to utilize District Mineral Funds (DMF) for supplementing and augmenting facilities of medical testing, screening and other requirements in connection with preventing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic as well as treating the patients affected with this pandemic.|
Criticism of the Relief Package
India’s allocation towards tackling the COVID-19 crisis is very low in comparison to other countries. It only accounts to 0.8 % of India’s GDP. Thus it is no-match for the global response. Some criticism is also over utilising an already existing scheme for providing the COVID-19 relief. Many poor people who have not been currently included under the scheme would not be getting any benefit of the relief. The situation currently is full of uncertainties, thus, it can only be expected that the government adapt to the changing scenarios and accordingly provide future relief.