New Delhi (Sputnik): While announcing 21-day lockdown on 24 March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that the economic impact of this crisis would be unimaginable but priority must be given to human lives during this pandemic.

Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a major stimulus package for the poor and daily wagers who have lost their jobs.

While briefing the media on Thursday, Sitharaman said that the government has finalised a package worth around $22.36 billion for migrant workers, women and the poor.

The government will provide five kilograms of either rice or wheat per person for the next three months. Sitharaman has also announced $66,000 insurance cover to “frontline warriors” of Covid-19 like nurses, paramedics and sanitation workers.

The government has also promised to pay the employees’ provident fund (EPF) contribution of both employers and employees for the next three months so that “no one suffers or due to loss of continuity of the EPF contribution”. This contribution to EPF – a scheme that helps people save for retirement – is for companies with less than 100 employees and where 90 percent of the staff draw less than INR 15,000 ($200) per month.

To provide relief to around 35 million construction workers, Sitharaman advised state governments to access the $5 billion welfare fund.

In the time when the entire banking system is under pressure due to bad loans, the government has doubled the amount of collateral free loans to women’s self-help groups. The minister said that around six million self-help groups can raise loans of up to $26,530 from the current $1,3265.

Earlier this week, Sitharaman announced a number of relaxations on tax payment deadlines, insolvency, and banking charges to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. 

The government has enforced a nationwide lockdown as the number of coronavirus cases have been increasing rapidly. The health ministry has confirmed over 640 active coronavirus cases in the country and 13 deaths.


COVID-19: India Announces $22.36 Billion Financial Package for the Poor Amid Nationwide Lockdown

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