India announces US$22.5bn Coronavirus relief plan

The Finance Minister said that the measures were intended at reaching out to the poorest of the poor, with food and money in hands, so that they do not face difficulties in buying essential supplies and meeting essential needs

March 28, 2020

Insurance cover of Rs 50 Lakh per Government health worker fighting COVID-19 to be provided under Insurance Scheme

800 million poor people will get 5 kg of wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month for the next three months

Wages under the MNREGA would rise by Rs.20/day with effect from April 1, 2020, benefiting 136.2 million families

The first installment of Rs.2,000 due in 2020-21 will be front-loaded and paid in April 2020 under the PM KISAN Yojana

The Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman on March 26 announced an Rs.1.7 trillion (US$22.5 billion) relief package under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, (PMGKY) to help the poor fight the impact of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Finance Minister said that the measures were intended at reaching out to the poorest of the poor, with food and money in hands, so that they do not face difficulties in buying essential supplies and meeting essential needs.

The Government has also launched the Invest India Business Immunity Platform to assist entrepreneurs and businesses during the economic slowdown brought forward by the crisis. The Coronavirus pandemic is now expected to cost the global economy much more than US$1 trillion in 2020. With a cure believed to be 12-18 months away, the disease has infected more than 860,000 people in over 180 countries, claiming nearly 42,000 lives between the period of December 2019 and March 2020. 

Following are the components of the PMGKY:

  1. Insurance for Government health workers:
    • Sanitation workers, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, technicians, doctors and specialists, and other health workers would be covered by the Special insurance Scheme.
    • Health professionals, who while treating COVID-19 patients, meet with some accident, then he/she would be compensated with an amount of Rs.5 million under the scheme.
    • All Government health centres, wellness centres, and hospitals would be covered under this scheme. Around 2.2 million health workers would be provided with insurance cover.
  2. PM Garib Kalyan Ann (अन्न) Yojana:
    • The Government of India would not allow anybody, especially any poor family, to suffer on account of the non-availability of foodgrains due to disruption in the next three months.
    • 800 million individuals, i.e, roughly two-thirds of India’s population would be covered.
    • Each one of them would be provided double of their current entitlement over the next three months. This additionality would be free of cost to fight the impact of Coronavirus.
    • To provide protein to all the above-mentioned individuals, 1 kg of pulses would be provided per family according to regional preferences for the next three months free of cost.
  3. Other key provisions for Coronavirus:
    • The first installment of Rs.2,000 due in 2020-21 will be front-loaded and paid in April 2020 itself under the PM KISAN Yojana. It would cover 87 million farmers.
    • A total of 204 million Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) women account-holders would be given an ex-gratia of Rs.500/month for the next three months.
    • Under the PMGKY, gas cylinders, free of cost, would be provided to 80 million poor families for the next three months. This will help provide energy security.
  4. Coronavirus aid for vulnerable sections:
    • As economic activities come to a grinding halt, wage-earners below Rs.15,000/month in businesses having less than 100 workers are at risk of losing their employment.
    • Under the package, the Government proposes to pay 24 per cent of their monthly wages into their PF accounts for the next three months. This would prevent job disruption.
    • Wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) would rise by Rs.20/day with effect from April 1, 2020, benefiting 136.2 million families.
    • Women organised through 6.3 million Self Help Groups (SHGs) support 68.5 million households. The limit of collateral-free lending would be increased from Rs.1-2 million.
    • A Welfare Fund for Building and Other Constructions Workers has been created under a Central Government Act. There are around 35 million registered workers in the Fund.
    • State Governments will be given directions to utilise this fund to provide assistance and support to these workers to protect them against economic disruptions.

  5. Support for senior citizens, widows and differently-abled:
    • There are around 30 million aged, widows and people in differently-abled categories who are vulnerable due to economic disruption caused by COVID-19. The government will give them Rs.1,000 to tide over difficulties during the next three months.

  6. PMGKY for the organised sector:
    • Employees’ Provident Fund Regulations will be amended to include Pandemic as a reason to allow the non-refundable advance of 75 per cent of the amount or three months of the wages, whichever is lower, from their accounts. 40 million workers to benefit.

  7. District Mineral Fund:
    • State Government will be asked to utilise the funds available under the District Mineral Fund (DMF) for supplementing and augmenting facilities of medical testing, screening and other requirements in connection with preventing the spread of CVID-19 pandemic as well as treating the patients affected with this pandemic.

To ensure continuity in the nation’s trade and investment activities, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has launched a help desk to assist with any COVID-19 related export and import issue. The resource can prove to be vital at a time when global economic activities have been pushed into deep uncertainties. Additionally, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has set up a control room to monitor in real-time the status of transportation and delivery of goods, manufacturing, delivery of essential commodities to the common man and the difficulties being faced by various stakeholders during the nationwide lockdown (March 25 to April 14).