Coronavirus update: Govt schemes to pump cash in rural sector amid lockdown over Covid-19
Covid-19 update:The Centre will release Rs 4,431 crore in the next four days to meet arrears on wages and materials for MGNREGS, according to people aware of the developments. The money will be transferred directly to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts through the direct benefit transfer scheme.
The Narendra Modi government plans to pump in cash into rural homes under two major heads, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the National Rural Livelihood Mission, and ensure social pension for three months is distributed in one go by April 10 to help Indian villages cope with the national lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
With community work under the job guarantee scheme coming to a standstill, a large section of MGNREGS workers will be shifted to schemes for individuals, according to people aware of the developments. Unlike the large community projects that require up to 100 workers, the individual schemes, such as making cattle sheds or farm ponds, can be done by just one or two people working together, they added.
A meeting was held at Union rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s residence on Thursday morning to prepare an action plan to tweak schemes to help people.
The Centre will release Rs 4,431 crore in the next four days to meet arrears on wages and materials for MGNREGS, the people quoted above said. The money will be transferred directly to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts through the direct benefit transfer scheme.
Additionally, the government, will release FY20-21’s first instalment of MGNREGS funds in the first week of April to help the states clear all its dues, the government said on Thursday. The annual budget of MGNREGS is Rs 61,000 crore.
The government has also decided that the construction of houses under the Prime Minister rural housing scheme (PMAY) — in which about one-fifth of MGNREGS workers find jobs — will continue. “Not many workers are involved in construction of a house in PMAY. So, this will not violate the broader health guidelines but at the same time ensure that the wheels of rural economy keep rotating,” a functionary present at the meeting said on condition of anonymity.
While officials don’t deny that a section of the MGNREGS workers may not find suitable jobs as large projects are stopped temporarily, they pointed out that beneficiaries under different schemes overlap in the rural map. They said that the government giving additional food grains for free will help the people.
The Centre is also working with the states to ensure that pension — for widows, elderly and differently abled people — in rural India is released for three months in one go. The Union government gives amounts of Rs 200, Rs 200 and Rs 300 respectively for the three categories. The different states’ matching amounts range from Rs 100 to Rs 1,500 for each beneficiary.
“Out of the annual allocation of Rs 9,190 crore in social pension, the Centre will release Rs 2,500 crore on April 1. This again would mean that pension holders will not have to worry about cash in their pockets,” said the functionary quoted.
Hours after the rural ministry’s meeting, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced at a press conference that senior citizens, widows and the disabled will get ex gratia amount of Rs 1,000 over the next three months and the move will benefit about 30 million poor people in India.
While MGNREGS has 128 million active workers, the national rural livelihood mission, under which the women self -help groups get benefits, covers 68.4 million houses.
The finance minister also announced that the women in self-help groups — about 63 lakh such groups — will get Rs 20 lakh in collateral-free loans.
Former Union rural development secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra said: “Most SHGs have limited scale of economic activities and they require a credit of Rs 2-2.25 lakh. I don’t know how many such groups can take the advantage of such large credit facilities.”