Food Grain for Migrants, Loans for Farmers in Modi Govt's 2nd Economic Package Worth Rs 3 Lakh Crore

While Nirmala Sitharaman said eight crore migrant workers will be provided food grains, that number is considerably less than the number of people who now face food insecurity.

New Delhi: Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday unveiled the second round of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan scheme, which contained over Rs 3 lakh crore worth of announcements aimed at migrants, tribals, farmers and the poor. 

The most significant measure announced was that the migrant workers would be provided five kg food grains and one kg chana (per family) even if they don’t hold ration cards and are thus not covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). 

This, Sitharaman said, will reach an estimated eight crore migrant workers and will cost the Centre Rs 3,500 crore. 

“The figure of eight crore has been arrived at through consultations with states. The states will be in charge of implementing this,” she said. 

However, the figure of eight crore is considerably less than the number of people who now face food insecurity. According to Reetika Khera, who is professor at IIM Ahmedabad, the expansions announced by Sitharaman is not really an expansion beyond the scope of the NFSA. 

“We were already under-covering by 10 crore as required by the NFSA. So this expansion will not even bring up the coverage to the 66% mandated by the NFSA, let alone go beyond NFSA, towards universal which is what is required, especially given excess stock,” she said. 

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Another measure announced by the Centre to deal with food insecurity issues was a focus on the existing one nation one ration card scheme under which holders of a ration card can avail of ration under the PDS even if they are not in their home districts. She said that 67 crore of the almost 81 crore beneficiaries under NFSA, will be enrolled by August this year and 100% coverage will be achieved by March 2021. 

Another step, which the finance minister said will benefit the migrant workers is an affordable rental housing scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for migrants and urban poor. This will be done in the public private partnership (PPP) mode she said. Manufacturing units, industries and associations will be incentivised to build affordable housing complexes on their private land. 

In a move to provide credit to small entrepreneurs, under the MUDRA scheme shishu loans (upto Rs 50,000) will be provided with an interest subvention option if prompt payment is made. 

Referring to Prime Ministers Narendra Modi’s promise of helping the street vendors, Sitharaman announced that within a month the government will launch a scheme which will provide them working capital of upto Rs 10,000. This is expected to benefit 50 lakh street vendors at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore. 

“We look at COVID-19 as an opportunity. Yes, people are suffering. They are walking back to their homes. The prime minister had requested them to stay where they are. But nevertheless, emotions being what they are, they started moving. And we will extend benefits to them,” she said. 

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In an attempt to boost the real estate sector, Sitharaman announced that the credit-linked subsidy scheme for middle-income families (those earning between Rs 6 lakh and Rs 18 lakh per annum) will be extended by a year to March 2021. This, she said, will lead to investments worth Rs 70,000 crore. 

In measures directed at helping farmers, the Centre said that an additional 2.5 crore farmers will be included under the Kisan Credit Card (KCC). Sitharaman said that of the nine crore PM Kisan beneficiaries, 2.5 crore do not have a KCC. These will now be provided concessional loans under the KCC. 

In addition, small and marginal farmers will also be able to avail additional Rs 30,000 crore loans through NABARD. This will be in addition to the Rs 90,000 crore emergency capital funding that NABARD provides. 

At the press conference, a journalist asked the finance minister what provisions the Centre is making for those who are already on the move, some on foot. Sitharaman said that it is up to the states to look after them. “There is a tug in my heart when I see those pictures. State governments should provide cooked food. In any case, people who are moving can’t benefit from dry ration. State governments and NGOs have been given ration under the OMSS (Open Market Sale Scheme),” she said.