What India Has Released From Its Rs 1.7 Lakh Crore Relief Package For The Poor 

Here’s what India has given its poor during the coronavirus outbreak.
People wearing protective masks practice social distancing, indicated by markings on the floor, at a market during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)
People wearing protective masks practice social distancing, indicated by markings on the floor, at a market during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India has released Rs 27,281 crore to beneficiaries in cash and social security transfers in the first 10 days of April to help the poor survive the world’s biggest lockdown against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The central government also released cooking gas cylinders and free grains by April 13 announced under the relief package, according to a statement by the Finance Ministry. It had to release relief and transfers worth Rs 57,000 crore during the month.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 26 announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package to be released in the April-June period. Besides cash transfers, it includes free food and withdrawals from provident fund. Though some economists estimated the relief measures to cost the government just over Rs 1 lakh crore.

Based on the Finance Ministry’s data, here’s what was promised and what has been released so far:

Cash Transfers

Announcement: Rs 1,500 in three equal instalments to the Jan Dhan accounts of 20.40 crore women.

  • Status: According to the Finance Ministry, the government credited the first instalment of Rs 500 to 97 percent of the accounts, or of 19.86 crore women, at a total cost of Rs 9,930 crore.

Money would be credited to the remaining accounts soon and the total cost would be Rs 10,000 crore, a government official said on the condition of anonymity.

Announcement: Rs 1,000 in two equal instalments to 2.8 crore senior citizens, widows and disabled.

  • Status: All beneficiaries received the first of the two instalments at a cost Rs 1,405 crore. The second instalment will be credited in May.

Announcement: Cash handouts to farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme were to be front-loaded.

  • Status: About 7.47 crore of the eight crore farmers have received Rs 2,000 each as on April 10. This involved a total cash outgo of Rs 14,946 crore for the government, and is part of the existing scheme.

Seema Prem, co-founder of FIA Technology Services, that operates as business correspondents for financial companies, said banking infrastructure for direct benefit transfer that is already in place helped the government in providing seamless disbursal of credit in the bank accounts of the needy.

Announcement: State-run New India Assurance Company Ltd. will provide 22.12 lakh frontline healthcare workers a cover of Rs 50 lakh for 90 days starting March 2020. It covers death in line of duty during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Status: Insurance scheme notified, the Finance Ministry said.

States Chip In With Cash: Apart from this, some states announced combined handouts worth Rs 3,071 crore to 2.17 crore of the 3.5 crore registered building and other construction workers. This amount comes from the 1 percent cess imposed on the cost of construction and is collected by local bodies and states.

Other Benefits

Announcement: Free gas cylinders to PM Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries for next three months.

  • Status: About 97.8 lakh free cylinders have been delivered to beneficiaries, and 1.39 crore cylinders have been booked under the PM Ujjwala Yojana, according to data shared by the government. BloombergQuint could not verify how many of these 1.39 crore cylinders were free refills or regular bookings under the scheme.

Announcement: About 80 crore poor will get 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses free every month from April to June. Each household to be given 1 kg preferred pulse for three months.

  • Status: The government, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana, is in the process of releasing 12 million tonnes of food grain and states have been given the option to buy the stock from Food Corporation of India in one go or every month, according to data shared by the Finance Ministry. So far, 20.11 lakh tonnes of food grains have been lifted by 31 states and union territories of the 40 lakh tonnes for April . About 2.65 lakh tonnes food grains have been distributed by 16 states and UTs to 5.29 crore beneficiaries under 1.19 crore ration cards as April entitlement, the ministry said. About 3,985 tonnes of pulses have been dispatched to states and UTs.

Announcement: The central government was to pay 12 percent each as employer and employee’s share of EPF for those earning a monthly wage of less than Rs 15,000. Around 79 lakh subscribers and about 3.8 lakh establishments are expected to benefit from the package involving an outgo of Rs 4,800 crore.

  • Status: EPFO has put in place an electronic mechanism for crediting EPF accounts and eligible organisations can file their claims online. An amount of Rs 1,000 crore has already been released to EPFO for the scheme for April, according to government data.

Announcement: Advance of 75 percent of the PF amount or three months of wages, whichever is lower, from accounts.

  • Status: The government amended the regulations to include the new coronavirus as a ‘pandemic’ and allow non-refundable advance of 75 percent of the corpus or three months of the wages, whichever is lower. About 2.1 lakh members of EPFO have availed online withdrawal costing Rs 510 crore so far, according to a statement by the government.

In Process

Other transfers by the central government that are under process and at various stages of completion.

Loans To Women Self-Help Groups: Limit of collateral free loans for women self-help groups to be increased to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh. Advisories have been issued to banks, and is likely to be notified by the government soon, according to another government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Higher MNREGA Wages: Daily wages under the scheme increased to Rs 202 a day from Rs 182. The move was expected to benefit 13.62 crore families but the lockdown has brought work to a standstill, leaving these workers with no wages. The government has released Rs 7,100 crore to states to liquidate pending wages and material, it said in a statement.

(Updates an earlier version after the government released the latest status details)

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