FM extends Rs 3.2-trillion stimulus to migrant workers and farmers

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing details of economic package at a press conference in New Delhi. Photo: Dalip Kumar
In its second package, the government on Thursday announced Rs 3.16 trillion support for vulnerable sections, including migrant workers, farmers, tribals, street vendors, and the middle class — all hit hard by the lockdown.

However, experts said implementation was the key because identifying beneficiaries was a challenge. They also said the government should now come up with some package to boost demand in the economy.

Three of the nine measures announced on Thursday were targeted at migrant labourers, who have been bearing the brunt of the lockdown because even if they have their ration cards with them, they can’t use them because they are not valid everywhere.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced 5 kg of grain — either wheat or rice — per person and 1 kg of “chana” (pulses) per family a month for two months for workers not enrolled under the National Food Security Act or states food schemes.
The Centre will take a hit of Rs 3,500 crore for this measure, which will help 80 million migrants. The implementation of the scheme will, however, be through states.

To enable migrants to get concessional food items through ration shops, the finance minister announced a one-nation-one-ration card scheme that would cover 83 per cent of workers who have ration cards or 670 million beneficiaries by August this year. The scheme is in the works.

All card holders will be covered under the scheme by March next year, she said. Then, she came up with a scheme to offer houses at affordable rent for migrant workers. Under the scheme, government-funded houses in cities will be converted into housing complexes through private public partnership. Besides, the government will incentivise manufacturing units, state government agencies, and others to develop housing complexes on their land.

This was the third package and the second in a series after the Prime Minister announced a Rs 20-trillion package to help revive the economy.

In the two successive days, the government has announced projects of Rs 9.10 million. It had earlier come up with measures worth Rs 1.7 trillion for the vulnerable and the poor. With a monetary stimulus of Rs 5.74 trillion, the packages announced so far were to the tune of Rs 16.5 trillion. Besides migrant workers, the cause of farmers has become an important issue because of the rabi season’s post-harvest period.

As such, Sitharaman announced 25 million farmers would be provided Rs 2 trillion concessional credit through kisan credit cards. Besides, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development would provide Rs 30,000 crore additional emergency working capital funding for marginal and small farmers through rural co-operative banks and regional rural banks for this purpose in May and June.

She also announced a Rs 70,000-crore boost to the housing sector through a one-year extension of subsidised loans for affordable houses for the middle-income group with an annual income of Rs 6-18 lakh.
The step, she said, would also boost the economy by creating demand for cement, steel and other construction material, and transport.

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