India saw the highest rise in novel coronavirus cases in a single day on Thursday, even as the Central Government announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore fund aimed mainly at underprivileged sections of the society. The fund included free food grain and cooking gas to the poor for three months, and cash doles to women and poor senior citizens — all part of a bid to ease the economic impact of the nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
India joins countries — from the US to Singapore — that have pledged spending to contain the economic fallout of the pandemic that has infected almost 5 lakh people globally and left over 21,000 dead.
The health ministry said that 88 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in the country in a day, taking the total number of infections in India to 694.
Modi noted the alarming social and economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic in his remarks at the G20 virtual summit. He added that 90 percent of the COVID-19 cases and 88 percent of deaths were in G20 countries, even as they share 80 percent of world GDP and 60 percent of world population, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
‘Don’t want anyone to remain hungry’: Sitharaman
While over 80 crore poor ration card holders will each get 5 kgs of wheat or rice and one kg of preferred pulses free of cost every month for the next three months, 20.4 crore women having Jan Dhan bank accounts would get one-time cash help of Rs 1,500 spread over three months.
Over 8.3 crore poor women, who were handed out free cooking gas connections since 2016, will get free LPG refills for the next three months, while poor senior citizens, widows and disabled will get ex-gratia cash of Rs 1,000.
The package included advancing the payment of one-third of the Rs 6,000 a year pre-2019 general election cash dole scheme for farmers, government contributions to retirement funds for the next three months of small companies with 90 percent of staff earning less than Rs 15,000, and a Rs 50 lakh insurance cover to healthcare workers.
For rural workers, the daily wage under the MNREGA employment guarantee programme has been increased to Rs 202 from Rs 182, benefiting 5 crore workers of about Rs 2,000 in all.
“The lockdown has been in force (since Wednesday), and therefore, we have come out with a package which will immediately take care of the concerns and welfare of the poor and suffering workers and those who need immediate help,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a news conference.
The package, she said, is being announced within 36 hours of the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by the Prime Minister to protect the nation’s 130 crore people from the fast-spreading coronavirus.
“We do not want anyone to remain hungry,” she added also hinting at more announcements if a need arises.
Responding to the measures, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said:
The Govt announcement today of a financial assistance package, is the first step in the right direction. India owes a debt to its farmers, daily wage earners, labourers, women & the elderly who are bearing the brunt of the ongoing lockdown.#Corona
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 26, 2020
Four more people, including a doctor couple, tested positive for COVID-19 in Telangana on Thursday, taking the total number of cases to 45 in the state, even as the government initiated steps to contain the spread of the virus.
Those tested positive are a 49-year old male resident of Qutbullapur in Medchal district, a 36-year-old doctor and her 41-year-old husband, also a doctor, and a 45-year-old man, resident of Secunderabad, a medical bulletin on COVID-19 said.
It said the four had not travelled to any foreign country, while all the 45 confirmed cases had a history of travel or contact with suspected or confirmed cases.
“There is no evidence of community transmission”, it said.
In Jammu and Kashmir‘s Srinagar, a 65-year-old man died, becoming the first fatality in the newly formed Union Territory due to coronavirus.
“As we share the sad news of our first #Covid19 fatality, my heart goes out to the family of the deceased. We stand with you and share your grief,” Mayor of Srinagar Junaid Azim Mattu tweeted.
Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal also confirmed the death via Twitter.
Two more persons have tested positive for coronavirus in Rajasthan, taking the total number of confirmed cases of the infection to 40 in the state, officials said.
The persons aged 45 years and 35 years have a travel history to West Asia. The former is a resident of Jaipur while the latter belongs to Jhunjhunu.
The state authorities have initiated an extensive contact tracing at both these places to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra has gone up to 124 as two more persons tested coronavirus positive on Thursday, health officials said.
“Both are from Mumbai city. We are finding out if they have any travel history,” an official said.
Till Tuesday, 2,988 people were admitted to isolation wards of hospitals since 18 January, while 932 persons were in hospital quarantine for suspected exposure to the virus.
As many as 14,502 people were put under home quarantine, officials said.
Migrants struggle to return home
Hit by a sudden 21-day lockdown and no transport, hundreds of migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are walking for days to reach their homes from the Delhi-NCR region and Gujarat, about 200 to 300 kilometres away.
And some elsewhere tried to make the desperate journey crammed inside container trucks.
Maharashtra Police on Thursday found over 300 migrant workers holed up inside two container trucks meant for carrying essential commodities from Telangana to Rajasthan.
The shocked officials found that the workers, who hailed from Rajasthan, had chosen this clandestine and dangerous mode of travel as they were desperate to return home.
Migrant labourers elsewhere in the country like in Kerala and Karnataka who are yearning to go home in the absence of any work to make living say they have no choice but to stay back and be at the mercy of authorities.
With hundreds of hapless daily-wagers trudging along desolate inter-state highways on the way back to Rajasthan from adjoining states, mainly Gujarat, the Gehlot government is facilitating their return home from the border after screening for any coronavirus infection.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Mar 27, 2020 00:28:37 IST
Tags : Coronavirus, Coronavirus India, Coronavirus Lockdown, Coronavirus Telangana, Coronavirus Update, COVID-19, Economic Package, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Jan Dhan Yojana, Ministry Of Finance, NewsTracker, Nirmala Sitharaman
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