Will FM’s coronavirus relief package reach all? Why Rs 1.7 lakh crore might not mean much

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Updated: Mar 27, 2020 1:24 PM

While FM Sitharaman announced Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package, concern abounds about figuring how to transfer the monetary relief urgently to the unorganised sector workers.

This can be used by healthcare workers for screening Covid-19 patients who need to undergo further testing as well as to monitor the progression of patients. (Representative image/ PTI image)(Representative image/ PTI image)

While Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore economic package for the most marginalised section of the society such as farmers, women, construction workers, senior citizens, widows and the disabled, many other sections of the society such as dhobis, rickshaw pullers, barbers etc remain untouched. Concern also abounds about figuring how to transfer the monetary relief urgently to the unorganised sector workers, who are not only facing healthcare scare but have also lost their jobs and income in recent times as the nation remains under a lockdown for 21 days, P Vaidyanathan Iyer wrote in The Indian Express on Friday.

There is no evidence as of now whether the government has a plan for unorganised sector workers such as rural labourers, etc. The central government’s package, which is less than 1% of India’s GDP, follows soon after Kerala first announced a Rs 20,000-crore support for its people. Many other states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Telangana and Rajasthan also announced relief for their people.

However, policy makers are still worried about the government’s ability to locate and deliver support to the migrant workers as many of these are trekking hundreds of kilometres to their homes. While FM Sitharaman said that the relief package will be rolled out as cash transfer and food security, about Rs 61,380 crore monetary relief can be pushed over the next three months.

There will be about Rs 10,000 crore benefit to women Jan Dhan account holders; about Rs 3,000 crore for widows, elders, and the disabled; about Rs 17,380 crore for the farmers and Rs 31,000 crore to building and construction workers from the Welfare Fund, according to The Indian Express column. About Rs 25,000-crore of the package will be aimed at augmenting and supporting medical facilities and testing, and will not be handed out as cash transfers. Further, the amount of Rs 17,380 crore earmarked for farmers is not additional — the same was already budgeted for in 2020-21.

The hike in MNREGA wages to Rs 202 a day also doesn’t help much since work in many states has come to a grinding halt in the wake of coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, the coronavirus cases in the country have climbed over 700 and has claimed 16 lives so far. 

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