By Charmi Saujani and Divya Manocha
The majority of our work at Daily Wage Worker Platform has directed the spotlight on the charities attempting to fulfil their promises. In this article, we wish to focus on the work of the government. A combination of efforts by central and state governments, along with municipal bodies, has resulted in the creation of a range of new policies (and acronyms). Here, we will focus on the central government’s flagship project: the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, or the collection of schemes for a self-reliant India.
On the 14th of May, India’s Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman announced a plan that paid heed to the migrant worker crisis crippling a large proportion of the country’s population. More specifically, the proposed schemes catered to those migrants that were unaccounted for under the pre-existing National Food Security Act or state-schemes. This plan is slated to gather nearly 8 crore migrants under its protective umbrella. And how costly is this umbrella? Rs. 3,500 crore.
The plan included food packages for the migrants for two months, the expansion of ‘One Nation - One Ration card’ scheme enabling migrant beneficiaries access to the public distribution system from any fair price shop in the country, provision of affordable housing for the migrants and urban poor by proposing the conversion of government funded housing in the cities into Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) as well as incentivising private manufacturing units, industries, institutions, associations as well as State/Central Government organisations to develop and operate ARHC. Moreover, the state governments were allowed to utilise the State Disaster Response Fund to help the migrants and MNREGA was planned to be continued through the monsoon as well to extend the support further.
The farmers would gain from the government’s plans to bring 2.5-crore additional farmers under the Kisan Credit Card scheme to help them access concessional loans from banks with low overall interest rates, amounting to ₹2 lakh crore. The government has also decided to provide ₹30,000-crore support mainly to small and marginal farmers. This facility was expected to help around 3-crore farmers meet post-harvest (Rabi) & current Kharif requirements in May and June. Additionally, Interest Subvention and Prompt Repayment Incentive was provided on crop loans, due from 1st March, extended up to 31st may 2020. Lastly, many measures were taken to provide liquidity support to farmers post Covid.
Sitharaman said the government had decided to bring an interest subvention scheme on SHISHU loan, under the MUDRA scheme for small businesses, with a cap of ₹50,000 and a three-month loan moratorium already in place. The total beneficiaries under this scheme will be more than 3 crore with the total estimated outlay as ₹1,500 crore. For street vendors, the government planned to launch a special scheme with a liquidity support of ₹5,000 crore to facilitate easy access to initial working capital of up to ₹10,000 to nearly 50-lakh street vendors with incentives for digital payers. The announced measures also included Rs. 3 lakh crore Emergency Working Capital Facility for businesses including MSMEs, an extension of EPF Support for business and organised workers for another 3 months for salary months of June, July and August 2020 - which will provide liquidity for workers in MSME and other businesses, a relief to contractors given by extension of up to six months for completion of contractual obligations and lastly, a reduction in the rates of ‘Tax Deduction at Source’ and ‘Tax Collected at Source” by 25% for the remaining period of FY 20-21 and due dates for various tax related compliances extended.
All these measures and plans of the government were and are to benefit the businesses, workers and farmers in various ways to help them cope with the adverse effects of this crisis. The promises are numerous, and their results would likely require a passage of time to be visible. Nevertheless, we at Daily Wage Worker Platform continue to document listings of efforts across the sectors, including the government sector in the hope that they may provide relief to the hungry, tired and devastated worker.