The Prime Minister announced the lockdown on the intervening night of March 24, 2020. This was a very crucial step taken by the Government of India to combat the present situation of COVID-19. But almost every step of government for the betterment of the country also leads to some disadvantages for some sections of the society. This step was not in the favour of poor section of the society and daily wage workers. These people are the worst affected by this decision of lockdown because it stopped almost all kinds of economic activities. So the government launched the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Scheme for the survival of these sections of the society. It is a fiscal package announced by the Government of India to help the people who are at risk both in terms of economic and health risk in this time of COVID-19 outbreak. The fund set for this Scheme is Rs 1.7 lakh crore. It includes cash and food transfer to the vulnerable sections of society.
This scheme basically has two components:
Pradhan Mantri Kalyan Ann Yojana (Food Security measures)
Cash Transfers (DBT)
The common objective of both components is welfare and relief.
Pradhan Mantri Kalyan Ann Yojana
This scheme is related to food security. Around 80 crore people of India will be covered under this scheme (Around 2/3rd of the population of our country will be covered under this scheme). These people will get additional food grain and pulses supplies for the next 3 months for free of cost i.e., the supplies under the National Security Food Act will not be affected and these supplies will be additional to those supplied under NSFA.
This scheme includes:
5kg rice/wheat per person per month
1kg pulse for each household
This scheme is largely based on DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) and includes the most disadvantaged sections during this lockdown such as farmers, migrant and MGNREGA workers, Urban and Rural poor, women, senior citizens, and Divyangs.
Senior citizens, Widows, and Divyangs will get a one-time payment of Rs 1,000 through Direct Benefit Transfer. This payment is an ex-gratia payment and there is no legal compulsion on the government to pay them.
States are directed to utilize District Mineral Fund for COVID-19 medical expenses. The Central Government has directed all the states to use District Mineral Fund for medical expenses of CoronaVirus i.e., test kits and all.
All the women having Jan Dhan accounts will get Rs 500 per month for the next three months under this scheme.
Hiring wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 has increased from Rs 182 to Rs 202, and around 5 crore families and 20 crore individuals have been benefitted from this step.
People getting LPG cylinders under Ujjwala Scheme will get it for free for the next 3 months and around 8 crore people will be benefitted from this step.
Central Government also directed the states to use the Building and other Construction Workers’ Fund (BOCW) for reducing the economic hardship of the construction -workers.
Farmers will get immediate benefits under the PM-KISAN Scheme. Under this scheme, a farmer gets a total amount of Rs 6000 per year in installments and now out of this 6000, he will get an amount of Rs 2000 immediately. Around 8.69 crore farmers will be benefitted from this step.
Centre to pay Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution of both employers and employees (total 24 percent) for the next 3 months but, this is applicable only for those companies that have up to 100 employees and where 90 percent of the employees earn less than Rs 15,000.
EPF (Employees’ Provident Funds) regulation to be amended so workers can draw up to 75% from the fund or 3 months wages whichever is lower.
The loan amount for Women SHGs has also increased from previous Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh i.e., now they will be able to get up to Rs. 20 lakh collateral-free loan. Around 7 crore households will be benefitted from this step.
The finance minister has also announced a medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per health worker. These workers would include sanitation staff, doctors, Asha workers, paramedics, and nurses. This step will benefit around 20 lakh individuals.
Ways for smooth disbursal of funds under PMGKY
Two ways have been announced by the Government to ensure that the benefits of this scheme are smoothly transferred to the targeted group:
The Ministry of Finance has tweaked PML (Prevention of Money Laundering) norms with the aim to make all inoperative bank accounts functional. The main objective behind this step is to ensure that cash transfers by the government under the COVID-19 relief package (PMGKY scheme) reach the targeted beneficiaries. These norms have been tweaked to ensure that beneficiaries are able to withdraw the money transferred to them by the government without any problems and without any requirement of additional documentation.
Under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, a large number of bank accounts were opened but, according to an expert committee's findings majority of these accounts are inoperative i.e., they are not functional for the past several months. This mainly is due to illiteracy and complication in bank dealings. These accounts majorly belong to the poor and illiterate people. So making these accounts operative will help the most vulnerable sections of the society which is the ultimate aim of this scheme.
The rules have been amended in respect of:
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts.
Basic savings and small accounts.
Those accounts which have become inoperative due to various reasons including Non-completion of KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements.
Accounts that may have become dysfunctional due to non-operation in the account for the last 2 years have also been made functional.
The Finance Ministry had also requested the Ministry of Home Affairs for adequate security personnel at bank branches and with the business correspondents. This is to maintain law and order, and social distancing, in view of the higher customer footfall expected for cash withdrawals after the transfers are made. Once the money is transferred by the Finance Ministry to the accounts, there can be a rush or there can be a higher customer footfall in the banks in order to withdraw the money because most of the persons are in dire need of money in this period of lockdown. In recent days we have seen such a rush in the ration shops which were providing ration for free under PDS (Public Distribution System). So it was also expected that such kind of rush would be witnessed in the banks also after the transfer of the money in the accounts and because of this thought the Finance Ministry requested the Ministry of Home Affairs for adequate security personnel at bank branches.
The implementation of this scheme was a necessary step taken by the Government of India in order to complete this lockdown effectively because this scheme takes care of poor and most vulnerable sections of Indian society. It provides them some kind of financial support and support in terms of necessities (food) as well. No one would have obeyed this lockdown with a hungry stomach and empty pockets and this scheme not fully but is somewhat successful in achieving its aim that is to provide economic and health support to the poor and vulnerable sections and it is one of the most important reason because of which people are obeying this lockdown. So we can say that this scheme is one of the pillars on which this lockdown is standing. The end of this fight between our nation and this deadly COVID-19 is not so near. So, it is the duty of our government to equip its citizens with economic backup as well as the necessities of life. This scheme provides some kind of financial aid to poor people but it is not so adequate because the amount given to each individual is not so sufficient as to fulfill his/her basic needs of life. This scheme was a good initiative but we need many more such initiatives from the government side in order to fight against this pandemic. The role of Government is crucial but the role of citizens is also not so small. It is our duty to follow the rules and guidelines issued by our government and stay inside our homes and we can successfully defeat this virus only by fulfilling our roles.
Author- Kapil Devnani
Student at Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.