Image Courtesy: ANI

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a slew of significant measures to deal with the economic distress caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to deal with the situation.

The development comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week had constituted a task force headed by the Finance Minister to work out a stimulus package for the economy.

The fiscal package that has been announced to take care of the poor, workers and those who need immediate help by the name of Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) will be worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore.

The PMGKY will cover 80 crore urban and rural poor.  People will be able to avail benefit of the scheme from April 1.

The stimulus package will ensure that each person gets an additional 5 kg Rice or Wheat per month which is additional to the current 5 kg allocation for next 3 months.

Sitharaman said that the relief package includes direct benefit cash transfers, free LPG for Women Ujjwala beneficiaries in 8.3 crore BPL families, while 8 crore poor people will get free 1 kg pulses and grains for the next 3 months. On the other hand, the middle class would be able to withdraw funds from their Employees Provident Fund or EPF account.

Direct Benefit cash transfers will benefit farmers, poor widows, pensioners and divyangs.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Finance Minister had already announced some measures that included extension of tax deadlines, easing minimum balance norms for savings account besides increasing threshold of insolvency filing to Rs 1 crore from Rs 1 lakh.

Nirmala Sitharaman also categorically stated that the Government doesn’t want anyone to remain hungry, or without money. The Finance Minister added that the Government will be giving enough to cater to the urban and rural poor.

The Stimulus Package also includes benefits for every MGNREGA worker, under the scheme, the wage rate has been increased from Rs 182 to Rs 202, amounting to an increase of Rs 2000 per worker. which will go on to benefit 5 crore families.

The Finance Minister also announced that 8.69 crore farmers will be immediately benefitted through direct cash transfers under which installment of Rs 2,000 in the first week of April will be transferred into the accounts of farmers.

Healthcare workers will get a medical insurance worth Rs 50 lakh while Rs 500 will be transferred in Jan Dhan accounts of 20 crore Women beneficiaries.

It needs to be mentioned, the total number of COVID-19 cases in India has crossed 600-mark, which includes 636 active cases while more than 40 people reportedly have recovered or have been discharged from hospital.

13 people have succumbed to the respiratory virus as per figures from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.