Congress MP Rahul Gandhi
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi
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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown due to the deadly virus, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a relief package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore.

Showering praise on the decision taken by the Narendra Modi-led government, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that this was the first step in the right decision. Taking to Twitter, the Wayanad MP wrote, "The Govt announcement today of a financial assistance package, is the first step in the right direction. India owes a debt to its farmers, daily wage earners, labourers, women & the elderly who are bearing the brunt of the ongoing lockdown."

Announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman:

Niramala Sitharaman announced an insurance cover worth Rs 50 lakh per person for sanitation workers, ASHA workers, doctors, nurses and paramedics who are on the frontlines of the corona battle.

For 80 crore poor -- or two-third of the population -- over and above 5 kg of rice or wheat that is already given, another 5 kg per person will be given free through the Public Distribution System. Besides, one kg of preferred and region-specific choice of a pulse will also be given, said Sitharaman.

"The government will ensure that no person remains without food in this period of lockdown," she said while unveiling features of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Scheme.

The farmers will get the first installment of Rs 2,000 in the first week of April. About 8.69 crore farmers will get immediate benefit out of it.

Under the MNREGA scheme, the wage rate has been increased from Rs 182 to Rs 202, amounting to an increase of Rs 2000 per worker. This will benefit 5 crore people.

For old age pensioners and widows, an additional ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 for the next three months available in two installments. It will benefit 3 crore widows and senior citizens.

For women Jan Dhan account holders, a one-time ex-gratia of Rs 500 per month will be given for the next three months. This will benefit 20 crore women.

For the beneficiaries of Women Ujwala Scheme, free cylinders will be given to 8.3 crore BPL families for three months.

Under the Deen Dayal National Livelihood Mission, women self-help groups (SHGs) will be provided collateral-free loans up to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh earlier. This will impact 7 crore holders through 63 lakh SHGs.

For the organised sector, the government will pay provident fund contribution of both the employer and the employee put together at 24 per cent for the next three months. This is for those establishments with up to 100 employees and 90 per cent of them earning less than Rs 15,000 per month.

The EPFO regulation will be amended so that workers can draw up to 75 per cent of the amount for their contingency expenditure. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers.

For 3.5 crore construction workers, state governments have been directed to use the welfare fund for building and construction labourers which has about Rs 31,000 crore to help those who are facing economic disruption because of the lockdown.

State governments have also been asked to utilise funds available under the district mineral fund for testing activities, medical screening, providing health attention needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the total number of COVID-19 positive cases in the country rose to 649 on Thursday, while 13 people have succumbed to the deadly virus.

(With input from ANI)

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