Is it enough?

Is it enough?

Free grain, ration for all migrants in govt’s 2nd package; kisan card

Rs 3,500 cr for free food grain supply for 2 months; states allowed to use disaster funds

Agency Report | New Delhi | 14 May, 2020 | 11:00 PM

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveils the second tranche of Centre's Rs 20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus, which attempts to address the question of food, shelter and livelihood for migrant workers, street vendors and small farmers. The immediate relief measure announced was extra grain. A universal, portable ration card which can be used across the country and affordable rental housing scheme is also in the works. "There is a legitimate concern about migrants returning to their home states. We are attending to migrants," the minister says amid rising opposition criticism that the Centre is ignoring the plight of migrant labourers. For farmers, the minister announces a Kisan Card. Provisions for loans have been made for street vendors and tribals.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said the entire country feels bad about the plight of migrant workers and announced free food grain supply to migrants for 2 months.

Sitharaman, unveiling the second tranche of measures of the government’s self-reliant campaign, said migrants in various states require food-grain assistance.

“Migrants who neither come under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) nor are they state card beneficiaries in states where they are stationed will be provided 5 kg of grains per person and 1 kg of ‘chana’ per family for two months”, said Sitharaman.

Emphasizing the government’s commitment to support migrant workers in the tough times during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Sitharaman said: “About 8 crore migrants are expected to benefit and Rs 3,500 crore will be spent on this intervention for 2 months.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a view to reviving the economy left devastated by the nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread, had announced a Rs 20-lakh crore special economic package.

Sitharaman, during the press briefing, reiterated that the government is committed to the welfare of migrant workers. She emphasized that the entire food grain intervention for the migrants will be borne by the Centre. “The cost will be fully borne by the government of India. State governments would be responsible for the implementation and identification of migrants through guidelines”, added Sitharaman.

She said under MNREGA support for migrants, 14.62 crore person-days of work generated till May 13 and actual expenditure to date is around Rs 10,000 crore. “States/UTs are advised to provide work to migrant workers as per the Act. Planning is on for continuing MNREGA works in monsoon as well as plantations, horticulture, livestock related sheds”, said Sitharaman.

The Minister said it has permitted state governments to utilise the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for setting up shelter for migrants and providing them food, water etc,

The Centre, under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package (Self-reliant India package), has provided support for migrants and urban poor. “Central government also released Rs 11,002 crore of its contribution in advance to all state governments on April 3, to augment funds in their SDRF,” she said.

Giving details of the utilisation of funds, the Centre, in a statement, said that hygienically prepared meals a day were provided three times a day to the residents of Shelter for Urban Homeless (SUH) during lockdown with effect from March 28.

It added that the disbursal of revolving fund to SHGs was on-boarded on PAISA portal in April 2020 on a pilot basis in Gujarat and it is under process of being rolled out across all the states in May 2020. “7,200 new SHGs of urban poor have been formed during the period starting March 15,” said an official.

The Centre said to promote formalisation of labour, it is emphasizing on appointment letters for all workers along with annual health check-up for employees. It also said it is promoting universalisation of the right of minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all workers including unorganised workers.

Taxpayers who have not furnished PAN or Aadhaar while filing tax returns will not get the benefit of lower rates of the tax collection at source (TCS) and the tax deduction at source (TDS).

Also, the TDS has not been reduced on salary income, cash withdrawal of over Rs 1 crore from bank accounts and foreign remittances, according to a top Finance Ministry official, here on Thursday.

It was done to provide more money into the hands of taxpayers to deal with the economic situation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The TDS on salary has not been reduced to prevent the salaried people from facing a heavy tax burden at the end of the year, at the time of filing returns and paying the full quota of taxes for the year.

“Similarly, cash withdrawals and foreign remittances have also been kept out of the rate reduction ambit to promote digital transactions and restrict larger outflow of money,” Finance Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey clarifying the position after second instalment of economic relief package was announced by the Finance Minister.

He said the reduction in TDS/TCS rates was largely to facilitate businesses get that much extra in this difficult period. The benefit would accrue to TDS on all kind of interest on securities, dividend, bank savings accounts where the rate will come down to 7.5 per cent from 10 per cent.

Similarly, payments to professionals would also attract lower TDS rate of 7.5 per cent. If you have sold a property or bought a car or paid rent, 1 per cent TCS is applicable. This will now come down to 0.75 per cent.

Pandey said 23 items under TDS and 12 under TCS would get the benefit of lower rate.

Apart from the 3-4 excluded items, it has also been clarified that reduced rates would not be applicable for taxpayers who have been denied lower rates (of TCS/TDS) due to non-furnishing of PAN/Aadhaar. The tax is required to be deducted at a rate of 20 per cent or higher for this category of taxpayers, as per the section 206 AA of the Income-Tax Act.

As per the announcement, the reduced TDS rate will be applicable to payment for contract, professional fees, interest, rent, dividend, commission and brokerage.

It’s estimated that the move will release Rs 50,000 crore liquidity.

The TCS is applicable on sale of Tendu leaves, timber contained under a forest lease, any other forest produce, scrap, minerals, grant of licence, lease of parking lots, mining and quarrying, sale of motor vehicle above Rs 10 lakh. The existing rates vary between 1 per cent and 5 per cent. It will now be between 0.75 per cent and 3.75 per cent.

The TDS rates vary between 1 per cent and 25 per cent for different segments, like interest in securities, dividend, repurchase of units by mutual funds, payment for acquisition of immovable property, fee for professional or technical services or royalty, income by securitisation trust, e-commerce participants. This will now stand reduced between 0.75 per cent and 18.75 per cent.

The necessary legislative amendments in this regard would be done in the due course, government sources said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the second tranche of fiscal stimulus, emphasizing ‘one nation, one ration card’.

The Finance Minister said, “Technology systems will be used to enable migrants to access Public Distribution System (ration) from any fair price shop in India by March 2021 — one nation, one ration card.”

She said this scheme will enable a migrant beneficiary to access the PDS from any fair price shop in the country.

“As many as 67 crore beneficiaries in 23 states covering 83 per cent of the PDS population will be covered by national portability by August 2020. One-hundred per cent national portability will be achieved by March 2021. All states and UTs will complete full FPS automation by March 2021,” she added.

During lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak, the government has faced a lot of criticism that it has failed to provide food to the needy.
Sitharaman said, “Work under the MGNREGA has been provided to 2.33 crore wagers in 1.87 lakh panchayats to benefit migrant workers, who are being actively enrolled.”

The government had generated 14.62 crore person-days of work till May 13, which was 40-50 per cent more compared with May 2019. “This is to help migrant labourers find work who have returned to their home states,” she said.

The Central government has asked states to use the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to set up shelters and provide food and water to the urban poor, including migrant labourers. “Rs 11,000 crore was sent for this purpose,” she said.

The Finance Minister said self-help groups (SHGs) had provided three crore masks and 1.20 lakh litres sanitizers. 7,200 new SHGs had been formed to generate employment during the lockdown, she added. (IANS)