The Indian government relief package announced Friday consists of 1.7 trillion rupees ($22.5 billion) in aid to the most vulnerable and includes provisions for struggling small-scale farmers and uprooted construction workers as well as poor families and seniors. Despite being of historical proportions for the country, the fund only covers a small part of economic losses expected due to the coronavirus in India.
The biggest group of beneficiaries can receive free cereals and pulses to cover at least the most basic necessities during crisis times. This applies to an estimated 800 million Indians - two thirds of country’s population -, who qualify for the aid under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana scheme. 80 million also qualify for free cooking gas.
200 million females who hold accounts under the Jan Dhan program for the unbanked will receive Rs. 500 a month for three months. Help will also go out to 87 million small-scale farmers, 30 million seniors, widows and disabled as well as 35 million construction workers who will receive money from the Construction Workers Welfare Fund. More groups, from health care workers to MNREGA (job creation) workers and professionals in small companies will receive aid.
But is the package enough? The fund is equivalent to less than 1 percent of GDP, whereas European aid packages have been providing aid to the tune of 20 percent of the respective countries’ GDPs. India is not stretching its deficit for the package, according to local Bloomberg subsidiary Quint. Economists interviewed by the outlet also said that Rs. 500 ($7) cash transfers were too low and that more aid was needed for the poor in society as well as workers and employers at the industry level.