'Janta curfew' in Maharashtra: Has Uddhav Thackeray repackaged Centre's schemes in his Rs 5,476 cr financial package?
'Janta curfew' in Maharashtra: Has Uddhav Thackeray repackaged Centre's schemes in his Rs 5,476 cr financial package?

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced a 15-day ‘Janata Curfew’ by imposing stringent restrictions beginning from 8 pm on April 14 till 7 am on May 1. In order to avoid crowding, the government has also invoked Section 144 to ban assemblies of more than five people in public places. However, essential activities, including travel and services, are allowed.

Besides, in a bid to provide much-needed relief during the ‘Janata Curfew’, Uddhav Thackeray announced a financial package of Rs 5,476 crore for the economically weaker sections, including families below the poverty line, women, the aged, widows, the physically challenged, the unorganised sector, rickshaw drivers, tribals, etc.

After Thackeray's announcement, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis accused the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of repackaging the Centre's ongoing schemes and presenting them as its own measures for people affected by the COVID-19 curbs.

Speaking to reporters in Nagpur, the former Chief Minister said the measures announced by Uddhav Thackeray were an eyewash, as it has simply repackaged the Centre's schemes and presented it as its own. "A huge population is going to be affected due to the newly-announced curbs amid the pandemic, but it will not receive any financial assistance from this government," Fadnavis said. At least 88 lakh people in the state are not covered in the Food Security Act because of a faulty survey conducted in 2011, and the Chief Minister has not announced any assistance for these people, he added.

Let us take a look at who gets what from MVA's financial package:

1. Under the various pension and assistance schemes, including the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, Shravanbal and Central schemes for widows, senior citizens and disabled, about 35 lakh beneficiaries will be given Rs 1,000 each for two months in advance.

2. Around 12 lakh construction workers registered with the Maharashtra Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board will be given Rs 1,500 each.

3. The government will also provide Rs 1,500 each to around five lakh vendors and it will be directly transferred to their bank accounts.

4. Around 12 lakh autorickshaw drivers will be given Rs 1,500 each.

5. Nearly 12 lakh tribal families will be provided Rs 2,000 each, under the Khavti scheme.

6. Under its flagship Shiv Bhojan scheme, the government will provide free lunches for a month. About two lakh plates will be served free daily from such centres.

7. The government will also provide 3 kg of wheat and 2 kg of rice free for a month to the seven crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act.

8. The government has earmarked Rs 3,300 crore exclusively for the upgradation, strengthening, expanding and optimising the existing health infrastructure, which is currently under tremendous pressure because of the sharp rise in COVID-19 patients. The government proposes to add more beds, including oxygen beds and ICU beds, ventilators, step up oxygen supply and procure medicines including Remdesivir, demand for which is likely to increase to 1 lakh from the present 50,000 per day.

Now, let us take a look at the Centre's Covid relief package:

The Centre had announced a mega Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package last year. The Rs 20 lakh crore package included Rs 1.7 lakh crore package of free foodgrains to poor and cash to poor women and elderly, as well as the Reserve Bank's liquidity measures and interest rate cuts. This was all packaged under Atma Nirbhar Bharat or Self-Reliant India Movement.

1. In a scheme called the Pradhan Mantri Street Vendors Atmanirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi), the Centre extended Rs 10,000 loan as working capital to street vendors to restart their businesses which have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. To revive the rural economy, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced coverage to 2.5 crore farmers under the Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) scheme with a credit boost of Rs 2 lakh crore. The government said that the move would help 2.5 crore farmers to gain access to institutional credit at concessional interest rate. PM-KISAN beneficiaries, fishermen, and those involved in animal husbandry were also included in this drive.

3. Under the Anna Suraksha Yojana, the government distributed 5 kg grains and 1 kg dal every month to the poor. Under its Ujjawala scheme, the government announced to provide free LPG refills for three months to over 8.3 crore poor women. At least 2 crore poor women account holders under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) were given Rs 500 for three months.

4. Under PM-KISAN, the government said that it will provide income support of Rs 6000 a year to farmers with a valid enrolment, paid in three equal cash transfers of Rs 2000 -- one every four months. Nearly 80.5 million farmers were to be paid about Rs 16,000 crore in all.

Apart for these, the mega Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package included an emergency working capital for businesses including MSMEs (Rs 3,00,000 crore), Rs 1.5 lakh crore for Food Micro Enterprises, Rs 1,00,000 crore for agri infrastructure fund, Rs 40,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for job creation, etc.

However, as it turned out, barely 10 per cent of it was disbursed. It was revealed after an RTI was filed by Pune-based businessman Prafull Sarda.

After comparing the two packages, it is evident that PM Modi's package under Atma Nirbhar Bharat was more holistic in nature, and was possibly meant for every section of the society. On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray's package is aimed to solve immediate problems, and isn't for the long term.

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