The Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the entire country, and its impacts are seen across all sectors. From large multinational corporations to micro, small and medium enterprises, the Coronavirus outbreak has caused all economic activities to sputter to a halt. To curb the spread of the pandemic in India, the central government announced a 40-day nationwide lockdown from 25th March to 3rd May. The lockdown was further extended till 17th May, with certain relaxations allowed in orange and green zones.
To address the needs of individuals and businesses in these adverse times, central and state governments have prepared various action plans and strategies for business continuity. Additionally, the government offers multiple relief measures for individuals. Here, in this article, we list the summary of the various Covid-19 relief measures provided by the government.
Relief Package worth Rs. 1.7 lakh crores for April to June
Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, the Union Finance Minister on 26th March, announced a relief package worth Rs. 1.7 lakh crores to be released in April to June, to help the poor survive one of the biggest lockdowns in the world.
The relief package included free food and cash via social security transfers worth Rs. 27,281 crores for the first ten days of April. The central government also offered free LPG cylinders and grains on 13th April for the poor.
Rs. 1500 for women via the Jan Dhan account
The central government has announced that the Jan Dhan accounts of 20.40 crore women will be credited with Rs. 1500 in three equal installments starting from April. According to statements by the Finance Ministry, the first installment of Rs. 500 had already been credited to 97% of the eligible Jan Dhan accounts.
Rs. 1000 for senior citizens, differently-abled and widows
Additionally, 2.8 crore eligible senior citizens, differently-abled, and widows will receive Rs. 1000 in two equal installments, directly to their accounts. The beneficiaries received the first installment of Rs. 500 in April and the second will be credited to all accounts in May.
Front Loaded Cash hand-outs to farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme
Nearly 7.47 crores of the eight crore farmers registered under the PM KISAN scheme were provided with Rs. 2000 each on 10th April. This costs Rs. 14,946 crores under the ongoing PM-KISAN project.
Industry experts state that the already existing banking infrastructure to provide direct cash transfers is a massive advantage for the government. It helps in seamless disbursal of credit directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
Insurance for Frontline Healthcare Workers
New India Assurance Company, a state-run insurance company, will offer insurance cover worth Rs. 50 lakhs each for 22.12 lakh frontline healthcare workers. The insurance cover will be valid for three months starting from March. The coverage will be provided to the family of the healthcare workers if they meet with death during Covid-19 duty.
Launch of the PM-CARES Fund
The central government has set up the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund to collect funds from organisations and individuals for tackling Covid-19. All contributions to the PM-CARES fund by companies are eligible for CSR. This fund also permits foreign inward remittances. The central government has released funds worth Rs. 11,902 crores to all states under the State Disaster Risk Management Fund.
States offer Ration and Cash
Besides the relief measures offered by the central government, various state governments have announced relief packages to help the needy meet their emergency needs during these adverse times. To give an example, the state government of Tamil Nadu offered Rs. 1000 for each ration-card along with staples for April. Similarly, the Kerala government provides essential groceries to all households in the state for April and May.
Free LPG cylinders for Beneficiaries of PM Ujjwala Yojana
The central government has announced free cooking gas cylinders for all beneficiaries under the PM Ujjwala Yojana for the next three months (starting from April). Around 97.8 lakh cylinders have already been delivered to recipients, and another 1.39 crore cylinders have been booked under this scheme.
Free Grains and Pulses for households under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana
The central government has announced that 80 crore poor people will receive 5 kilos of rice or wheat and 1 kilo of their preferred pulse for free for three months starting from April to June.
Central Government to Contribute to EPF of Labourers with monthly wages less than Rs. 15,000
The central government has announced that it will pay 12% of both the employer and employee's contribution to EPF. All labourers who receive a monthly wage of less than Rs. 15,000 are considered eligible for this scheme.
This package will cost the central government Rs. 4800 crores and will benefit 3.8 lakh establishments and 79 lakh employees.
An Advance of 75% of the PF amount
Usually, employees are not allowed to avail of advance from their PF accounts. However, since the Covid-19 is considered a pandemic and has caused devastating economic impacts, the government has amended the regulations. It allows contributors to withdraw 75% of the PF amount (or three months wages, whichever is lower) as non-refundable advance.
According to a statement by the EPFO, around 2.1 lakh contributors have availed this facility.
Other Measures that are in Process
Besides the various measures listed above, the government is contemplating offering various other relief measures like:
Loans to Women SHGs (Self-Help Groups)
The government has issued advisories to banks instructing them to increase the limit of loans to self-help groups. It is expected that once this is approved, women SHGs can avail collateral-free loans up to Rs. 20 lakhs (earlier the limit was Rs. 10 lakhs).
Increase in MNREGA Wages
The daily wages of labourers employed under the MNREGA scheme will be increased to Rs. 202 per day. Earlier, the fee was set at Rs. 182 per day. Once implemented, this will benefit around 13.62 crore families.
Sector-wise Relief Measures for Covid-19
The farming sector has been exempted from the nationwide lockdown as the sowing and harvesting season is in progress. However, farmers and workers have to follow social distancing norms.
The Agriculture Ministry has updated the e-NAM software with several new features to help in decongesting mandis.
The repayment date for crop loans has been extended up to 31st May 2020.
Government employees with disabilities are exempted from reporting to work for essential services.
Contract employees of the Indian Railways will be considered on duty and paid, even when train services are suspended.
The government has requested all private employers to refrain from salary cuts and lay-offs during the lockdown period.
The income tax department has announced an extension for filing 15G and 15H forms till 30th June.
All state governments have been instructed to provide temporary shelters with sanitation, clean water, and food for migrant and daily wage labourers.
Landlords should refrain from demanding rent from workers during the shutdown.
The RBI has announced a three-month moratorium on EMIs for all outstanding loans. However, note that the moratorium doesn’t apply to interest on loans.
Insurance premiums falling in March and April are provided with a 30-day grace period.
The last date for filing income tax returns for the FY 2018 – 2019 has been extended to 30th June.
The due date for linking Aadhaar and PAN has been extended to 30th June.
The date for filing GST returns has also been extended to 30th June.
The education ministry has asked CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) to promote all students from classes I to VIII to the next class. Students of Class IX and XI will be promoted based on the assessments conducted by their respective schools.
The MHRD has announced that board exams for class X and XII students will be conducted only on the crucial subjects.
The MHRD and the UGC have launched digital platforms for teachers and students to continue learning during the lockdown.
The government has announced that masks and sanitizers are classified as essential goods. It has also capped the prices of sanitizers and masks. Restrictions on the production of ethanol for sanitizers have been lifted.
The government has announced that all essential services will continue to function during the nationwide lockdown.
The government has launched a mobile app, the “Arogua Setu,” to track the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The NPR (National Population Register) and Census works have been postponed.
Covid-19 not just a Healthcare Issue
The Coronavirus pandemic not only poses severe medical challenges, but it has also disrupted economic activities across the country and worldwide. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) predicts that Covid-19 disruptions will cause a global recession bigger and more severe than the 2008 financial crisis.
As a result of the nationwide lockdown and shutdown, millions of people and businesses in India are on the verge of losing out their incomes. The pandemic has severed affected daily wage labourers and migrant workers. The various relief measures announced by the government act as a ray of hope for the needy, helping them meet their immediate needs during these bleak times.