NEW DELHI: Migrant labourers who don’t have ration cards and are stranded in different parts of the country due to the nationwide lockdown will get free food grains for the next two months, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday unveiling the second tranche of the Covid-19 stimulus package.
Thursday’s tranche, part of the Rs 20 lakh crore announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, includes a Rs 2 lakh crore concessional credit boost to 2.5 crore farmers, Rs 5,000 crore liquidity support from banks to some 50 lakh street vendors and 2% interest subsidy for micro loans of up to Rs 50,000 each within the Mudra Shishu scheme.
The free rations will include 5 kg of grain and 1 kg of Chana per person for two months, the finance minister said. The announcement came in the wake of widespread criticism that the government was ignoring the plight of hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers, many of whom have resorted to walking thousands of kilometres to reach their native places.
In 2019, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee had suggested free rations to non-card holders. The scheme, which will cost the government Rs 3,500 crore, is expected to help nearly 80 million migrant workers for the next two months, Sitharaman said.
“There is a legitimate concern about migrants returning to their home states. We are attending to migrants,” Sitharaman said, adding “In the past two months, Centre has given out Rs 11,000 crore for urban poor. It was sent from the Centre to states for temporary shelters to be made. I am saying all this today because we want to inform you all that our government cares for the migrants.”
However, experts said the fiscal impact of the schemes will be limited as most of it would be rolled out through banks. “Overall fiscal impact is very limited to the tune of Rs 4,000 crore only. Some of the measures announced will provide long-term succour to migrant labour. Effectiveness of some of the measures announced is contingent on the sentiment of the consuming class and their appetite to make non-essential investments and their risk taking ability,” said Ranen Banerjee, leader, economic advisory services at PwC.
Sources in the finance ministry said that out of the Rs 20 lakh crore announced by the Prime Minister, measures worth Rs 15.57 lakh crore have been unveiled till now, including Rs 7.09 lakh in stimuli announced by the Reserve Bank of India and the finance ministry in the early days of the lockdown.
The government also said the existing universal ration card scheme, ration card portability, will be completed by March 2021, ensuring a citizen gets rations irrespective of his movement within the country.
The government has already spent some Rs 10,000 crore in the past two months creating 14.62 crore man-days of work under MNREGA.