India announces $22.6b package to tackle corona crisis
India announced a $22.6 billion bailout package on Thursday for the country’s poorest people with an aim to assist them during the crisis triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.
The relief measures included direct cash transfers (under the DBT or Direct Benefit Transfer scheme) and food security-related steps aimed at giving relief to the poor workers hit by the countrywide lockdown.
Cash transfers, based on direct benefit transfer, will be given to farmers, MGNREGA workers, poor widows, pensioners and disabled people, women with Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, women beneficiaries under Ujjwala scheme, women self-help groups, organised sector workers, construction workers, district mineral fund.
“We don’t want anyone to remain hungry and we don’t want anyone to remain without money in their hands,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The immediate focus was on alleviating the hardships of the migrant workers, urban and rural poor, she added.
Nirmala said the package would take care of those who need immediate help and by providing free rice, wheat and pulses, as well as direct cash transfers.
The government would also provide a medical insurance cover of up to $66,482 for all healthcare workers helping fight the virus.
Under the scheme, for the next three months, each person will get an additional 5 kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to 5 kg per month already given under PDS. One kg of pulses will be provided per household, according to regional preferences.
Nirmala said she will ask state governments to use money available under district mineral funds to use for medical screening, testing and treatment.