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Insights into Editorial: Centre rolls out ₹1.7-lakh-crore lockdown package

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Context:

The Union government announced a Rs.1.7 lakh crore package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and countrywide lockdown, providing free food and cash transfers to support the poorest citizens who are most vulnerable during the crisis.

The food grain ration for 80 crore poor people would be doubled for the next three months, supplemented by a kg of local pulses as well.

The Centre would provide Rs.50 lakh medical insurance cover for the next three months for about 22 lakh health workers in government hospitals fighting the spread of the virus at personal risk, including ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, medical sanitary workers in government hospitals, paramedics, nurses and doctors.

In the interim, the lockdown or quarantine also creates some breathing space to convince people of the seriousness of the situation and build positive public opinion, carry out disinfection of all buildings, vehicles and surfaces, and allows hospitals to prepare themselves for the next phase of operations.

 

Highlights from Finance Minister announcement:

The Finance Minister announced Rs.1.70 lakh crore package Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana, targeting 80 crore people.

  1. Under the scheme, for next three months, each person will get additional 5 kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to 5 kg per month already given under PDS. One kg of pulses will be provided per household, according to regional preferences.
  2. Cash transfers, based on direct benefit transfer, will be given to farmers, MGNREGA workers, poor widows, pensioners and disabled people, women with Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, women beneficiaries under Ujjwala scheme, women self-help groups, organised sector workers, construction workers, district mineral fund.
  3. The first instalment of PM-KISAN for 2020-21, which is Rs.2,000, will be given in April itself. As many as 69 crore farmers are likely to get immediate benefit.
  4. The wages of MGNREGA workers has been increased from Rs. 182 to ₹202 per day. This will benefit 5 crore families, and will result in an additional ₹2,000 given per worker. Social distancing norms must be followed at MGNREGA worksites during this period.
  5. For poor pensioners, widows and disabled, govt will give ex-gratia, one time amount of ₹1,000 in two instalments over nxt three months. Expected to benefit 3 crore poor people above 60 years, widows and disabled people.
  6. For 20 crore women with Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, an ex-gratia amount of ₹500 per month for next three months will be given, so they can run the affairs of their households.
  7. For poor pensioners, widows and disabled, govt will give ex-gratia, one time amount of ₹1,000 in two instalments over next three months. Expected to benefit 3 crore poor people above 60 years, widows and disabled people.
  8. For 20 crore women with Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, an ex-gratia amount of ₹500 per month for next three months will be given, so they can run the affairs of their households.
  9. For the beneficiaries of Ujjwala scheme who were given free gas connections, govt will give free gas cylinders for three months. It will benefit 8.3 crore BPL families.
  10. There are 63 lakh Women self help groups which benefit seven crore households. Under the National Rural Livelihood Mission, they get up to ₹10 lakh collateral free loans. It will now be doubled to ₹20 lakh, so that they will have money in hand without worry about collateral.
  11. For organised sector workers, Centre will pay EPF contribution of both employer and employee (total of 24%) for next three months. This is for establishments up to 100 employees, of which 90% earn less than ₹15,000 per month.
  12. The Employees Provident Fund scheme regulations will be amended to allow non-refundable advance of 75% of the amount standing to credit of the member, or 3 months’ worth of wages, whichever is lower. This will benefit 4.8 crore organised sector workers registered with EPFO. This will benefit 80 lakh employees, and incentivise 4 lakh establishments.
  13. There is a welfare fund of ₹31,000 for building and other construction workers, which has 3.5 crore registered workers.
  14. Centre will direct State governments to provide assistance and support to the registered construction workers facing economic disruption due to the lockdown.
  15. The Finance Minister said she will ask State governments to use money available under district mineral funds to use for medical screening, testing and treatment.
  16. These announcements come into effect immediately. We have immediately responded, within 36 hours of the lockdown, providing support first to the poorest of the poor.
  17. We are conscious of the impact this will have on banks, as people will need to access their cash transfers. Banks and bank branches, ATMs, banking correspondents are all essential services and will continue to work during the lockdown.

WHO busts myths and fake messages on coronavirus:

Busting the myths and fake messages circulating on social media, the Public Health department of Maharashtra said consuming more garlic, curry leaves or cow’s urine would neither treat nor prevent one from the novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection.

The officials urged people to instead follow good hand hygiene, have coughing and sneezing etiquette and eat nutritious and well-cooked food.

We cannot stay at home indefinitely, but we must make our sacrifice count, so people need to follow these instructions strictly, as if their life depended on it.

Is India equipped to battle Coronavirus?

  1. We have started late. There are two steps in case of a viral outbreakpreparedness and containment.
  2. If you cannot contain, you delay and if you cannot delay, you research and mitigate the circumstances. Preparedness phased cannot be considered now when there already is infection.
  3. After 43 cases, now we are going through preparedness. It is a bit of a delayed response. You need both preparedness and containment tactics at the moment. At least, in India, community spread has not happened so far.
  4. We must change the focus of our battle to personal hygiene.
  5. For example, during the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Governments there was able to contain not because of drugs and treatment but by improving personal hygiene.
  6. They mandated hand-washing frequently at schools and industries, which helped bring down the cases.
  7. For COVID-19, the management is only by handling patients with travel history. They need to be isolated for the incubation period and kept under observation.

Home remedies and treatment other than allopathy is not proven science. The best thing is precaution only. You must keep away from a patient who coughs and sneezes.

If you are coughing, you need to cover your face with a mask and not spread the droplets around. COVID-19 spreads through droplets.

Conclusion:

The Pradhan Mantri Gharib Kalyan Yojana had been announced within 36 hours of the lockdown and it would take care of the needs of poor and migrant workers, farmers, women, pensioners, widows and the disabled.

The government do not want anyone to remain hungry, so we will be giving enough to take care of their food grain requirement, protein requirement in terms of pulses.

On the other hand, they should also not remain without money in hand, so several measures through DBT are being taken so that money reaches them.