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Centre announces Rs1.7 lakh crore relief package for coronavirus pandemic

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Finance Minister Nirmana Sitharaman on Thursday announced an economic stimulus package to help the nation tackle the financial difficulties arising from coronavirus outbreak. Sitharaman said the economic relief package will focus primarily on migrant labourers and daily wage labourers.

“A package is ready for the poor who need immediate help like migrant workers and urban and rural poor. No one will go hungry. The package is worth Rs1.7 lakh crore,” Sitharaman said.

The package will include a mix of food security and direct cash transfer benefits, which shield poor families during the lockdown. This will be done under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna (PMGKAY).

Under the PMGKAY, announced for the next three months, at least 80 crore poor people will be covered. Under the scheme, an additional five kilos of rice/wheat will be given along with 1-kilo pulse per household.

She also announced that there will be Rs50 lakh insurance cover for each healthcare worker for three months.

Nirmala Sitharaman also announced a multi-layered direct cash transfer scheme for affected people. “8.69 crore farmers to be immediately benefited through direct cash transfers. Installment of Rs2000 in the first week of April will be transferred,” Sitharaman said.

Wages under MNREGA will also be increased by Rs2000 per worker on an average as additional income to help daily wage labourers.

The finance minister also announced that three crore senior citizens and women will be covered under the Divyang scheme, under which a one-time additional amount of Rs1,000 in two installments will be given through DBT for three months.

She also announced that 20 crore Jan Dhan women account holders will be covered under the relief package and compensation of Rs500 per month for the next three months.

Since last week the government was expected to release an economic relief package to help ailing industries, daily wage labourers, poor families and others who have been affected financially due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

The relief package is likely to help in cushioning the financial losses caused by the countrywide lockdown to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

On Tuesday, Sitharaman announced an extension of some deadlines and reduced compliance burdens on companies.

She said the government has extended the income tax filing for the financial year 2018-19 to June 30, 2020. The finance minister also extended the deadline for the Aadhaar-Pan linking to June 30.

As far as other measures are concerned, a total waiver of debit card usage charges which apply for transaction at a different bank’s ATM. The minimum balance criteria for bank accounts has been waived off for three months.

“Debit cardholders who withdraw cash from any bank’s ATM can do it free of charge for the next three months. Also, there will be a complete waiver of minimum balance charges for saving bank accounts,” she said.

Several compliance burdens were also relaxed for companies that have been forced to shut down key business operations.

First coronavirus death reported from Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, Gujarat’s toll reaches 2