As India grapples with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, on Thursday, March 19, announced a financial package worth Rs 20,000 crore.
The money, aimed as a relief to the state's economy that has taken a hit, would be used to cover health packages, loan assistance, welfare pensions, MGNREGS, free food grains, subsidized meals, tax relief and arrear clearance.
"Our state is facing a big crisis, normal life has been hit by this pandemic. It has wreaked havoc on our economy and to revive the economy, we are announcing a Rs 20,000 crore package," The News Minute quoted the CM as saying.
20,000 Cr special package for the State to overcome #COVID19. It takes an inclusive view and ensures that no one is left behind. The plan covers health package, loan assistance, welfare pensions, MNREGS, free food grains, subsidized meals, tax relief & arrear clearance.— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 19, 2020
In a major move, the Kerala government will also provide free rice to everyone, regardless of their economic status, for one month.
"Without differentiating families based on Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) cards, everyone will be given free rice. APL families will be given a total of 10 Kg cereals. For this Rs 100 crore has been allotted," said the Chief Minister.
Of the designated amount, a loan of Rs 2,000 crore would be made available to members of Kudumbashree - the state's poverty eradication and women empowerment scheme - in April and May. In the next two months, Rs 2,000 crore would be allotted to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme(MGNREGS).
In another major concession, the CM said that payment period for electricity and water bills will be extended. "People can pay the bills without paying fines for one more month," he said.
In the last state budget, the government had announced that 1,000 subsidised food stalls will be opened in the state. At these stalls, meals would be distributed for Rs 20. In the wake of the virus outbreak, these stalls, which were initially slated to be started by September, will now start by April.
Furthermore, the CM also announced concessions for auto rickshaw and bus operators in the state. "Fitness fee for autorickshaw will be relaxed. Stage carriage and contract carriage in buses will be tax-deductible. Stage carriers will be given a one-month exemption for three months tax," he said.
In addition, the CM said that two instalments of social security pensions, that were slated to be paid in April, would be paid this month. For this, a sum of Rs 1,320 crore would be spent.
"This pension is supposed to be given in April. But we have decided to disburse the pension amount for two months, this month itself," he said.
Furthermore, the families in the state which do not receive any social security pension will be given Rs 1,000 each. For this, Rs 100 crore has been set aside.
Special Package | #COVID19— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 19, 2020
₹20,000 Cr package to fight the pandemic.
📜 2000 Cr in loans thru Kudumbashree
👷🏽♂️ 2000 Cr for employment guarantee scheme
👨👩👧👦 ₹1320 Cr for ₹1000 assistance to families not eligible for pensions.
👵🏾 2 months welfare pensions in advance pic.twitter.com/4AC6XcZkvt
Kerala on Thursday confirmed one more positive case of the virus, taking the total number of cases in the southern state to 25. The latest case is a man from northern Kasaragod district, who had recently returned from Dubai.
At present, a whopping 31,173 people are under observation in the state. Of this, 237 are in hospitals and the remaining are in home quarantine.Also Read: Mineral Water, Cheese Toast, Fruits: Kerala Govt's Breakfast Menu For Those In Isolation Wards Due To Coronavirus