ROUND TWO – BALM FOR WORST IMPACTED

about 20 days ago
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After yesterday’s first round, there was a big hullabaloo about how the package had nothing for those suffering the most – the daily wage earners, the migrants, farmers and even tribals. So today’s tranche of the stimulus was entirely about people on the lowest rung or not even there on any economic ladder.

Today’s second round had 8 measures in all – 3 for migrants, one each for street vendors, housing and employment of tribals and two measures for small farmers.

Large parts of the speech today were about all the things which the Govt has been doing for the farmers and the urban poor since March, when the Covid pandemic hit. It was more about putting into perspective about how the Govt has been caring and spending for the poor. Unfortunately, what the Govt announces and says is very different from what we see at the ground level. And that’s the worrisome part – all packages are announced but how much really gets implemented and reaches the poorest of the poor is a big question mark. The Govt spoke about having created shelter homes for the migrants but sadly on almost all highways across the country, we are seeing people walking, carrying their own supplies and left sleeping on the highway corners and sadly, railway tracks.

What the poorest of the poor today needs is money and food and in that context, the measures taken on the ration card – one nation, one ration card is excellent; once again this will take a while to get implemented as the ration shops also need to be technologically upgraded.

What we also sadly missed was how the Govt plans to work on getting the migrant workers back to the factories. When factories have been told that they can work with 33% labour force, there is no one to work today. How is this situation going to be corrected? Well, the Govt is behind the curve on this.

The Govt spoke about migrants returning to their villages.

For Returning migrants:

  • MGNREGA support increased – 40-50% more people enrolled in May on YoY, to ensure that the migrant workers that are returning back to home states are not out of work there.
  • Work during monsoon will also be actively taken up

And mind you, in all this crisis, the omnipotent crisis of Covid remains.

Measures for farmers:

  • Interest subvention of existing loans and prompt repayment incentive to be extended from 1st March to 31st May, 2020
  • 25 lakh new Kisan Credit Cards sanctioned with a loan limit of Rs.25,000 crore

Measures for small/marginal farmers:

  • Additional Rs 30,000 crore to be released via NABARD for Rabi-related work and preperatory work for Kharif
  • Rs 2 lakh crore concessional credit to be extended to 2.5 crore farmers who don't have the card; fisherman and animal husbandry workers also included

Measures for migrants:

  • Free food grain supply for the next two months – cost to be borne fully by the Govt; even those without NFSA or State card beneficiaries in the state that they are stationed will be given 5 kgs of grains per person and 1 kg chana per family per month. State Govt’s responsibility to get this implemented and distributed – to benefit 8 crore migrants.
  • Ration card holders can buy ration from any place in the country by March 2021- One nation, one ration card. Govt says 83% already covered - to benefit 67 crore.
  • Urban migrants/ poor can get some basic accommodation for themselves at affordable rent – this is not happening now but will come into effect only after such space is created. The Govt plans to incentivize manufacturing units to build on their private compounds and use empty government land to build more housing. Govt has also proposed PPP mode through concessionaire arrangement.

Shishu loans of MUDRA:

  • Interest subvention support of 2% extended to all Shishu loan holders (loans up to Rs 50,000) – to benefit 3 crore people

Measure for Street Vendors:

  • Special Credit facility to facilitate easy access to credit – initial working capital of up to Rs.10,000. Again, this is not immediate; it will be launched within a month

Measure for Housing:

  • Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS) for Middle Income families (annual income of Rs.6-8 lakh/annum) to be extended till March 2021 – to create jobs an stimulate demand for steel, cement, transport and other construction materials. Once again – nothing immediately now.

Measure for tribal/adivasis:

  • Received proposals worth Rs.6000 crore by the Govt – to focus on employment for adivasis and tribals under CAMPA and this will be mainly for forestry related work.

The FM also spelt out Labour Codes which are in the works and will happen at a later stage but only through the Parliamentary process.

  • Working on implementing a universal minimum wage
  • Removing regional disparity in minimum wage thorough national floor wage concept proposed
  • Compulsory appointment letters and annual health check-ups
  • Portability of welfare benefits is being considered.
  • ESIC benefits are being looked at getting expanded to all establishments, even for those with less than 100 employees and for establishments with 10 or less employees will be voluntary.
  • To make ESIC coverage mandatory for small units where workers are engaged in hazardous jobs.
  • Bringing in social security for gig workers. 
  • Re-skilling of retrenched workers will be looked at.
  • All occupations should be open for women with night working rights
  • Social security for unorganised sector workers also

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