The Centre on Wednesday infused the first dose of vaccine to the economy ailing from novel coronavirus-induced lockdown. While Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the first tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package, the nationwide tally of the deadly virus climbed above 74,000.
According to the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, the total cases included 47,480 active cases, while 24,386 patients were cured or discharged. The death toll in India has climbed to 2,415.
A large number of new cases continued to come up in Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, among some other states and UTs.
In the first batch of the economic package, the government unveiled measures amounting to about Rs 6 lakh crore in easy loans, additional liquidity and other incentives to help businesses fight the crisis.
The announcement came on the 50th day of the coronavirus lockdown and merely four days before the end of its third phase on May 17. A decision on the future course of action on the lockdown is expected in the next few days, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the ‘fourth’ phase would be different from the third one, in which some relaxations were already given.
Before the Centre can announce norms of Lockdown 4.0, several states have started charting their own path. While West Bengal on Tuesday announced that it be redrawing its zones post-May 17, Haryana on Wednesday said it will reopen public transport on an experimental basis. Karnataka said that it will reopen gyms, fitness centres and golf courses.
Here’s your capsule of key updates on Covid-19 crisis in India:
FIRST ECONOMIC BOOST
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced a slew of measures for various sectors, including MSMEs, hit by Covid-19-induced lockdown. The first tranche of measures announced by FM Sitharaman includes six provisions for MSMEs, two for employee provident fund, two for HFCs and MFIs, one for discoms, one contractors, one real estate, among others.
The focus on the MSME sector is crucial as it will help India achieve self-reliance and the sector employs nearly 11 crore people. It accounts for about 45 per cent of the country’s total manufacturing output, 40 per cent of exports and almost 30 per cent of the GDP. However, the sector has been hit hard by the lockdown, with millions of units staring at the prospect of closure and the threat of job losses.
The boost, enabled by the fresh package, will help many get back to work, while several other measures like EPF contribution cut and TDS rate reduction will help put money in people’s pockets.
Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman today announced measures for relief and credit support related to MSMEs, EPF, NBFCs, housing finance corporations, MFIs, discoms, contractors, real estate and Tax.
— Ministry of Finance #StayHome #StaySafe (@FinMinIndia) May 13, 2020
Highlights of the economic package
* Rs 3 lakh crore emergency working capital facility for businesses, including MSMEs
* Rs 20,000 crore subordinate debt for stressed MSMEs
* Rs 50,000 crore equity infusion through MSME Fund of Funds
* New definition for MSMEs
* No global tenders for govt procurement worth up to Rs 200 crore to promote MSMEs
* Extention of EPF support for business, organised workers for another 3 months
* Rs 30,000 crore special liquidity scheme for NBFC/HFC/MFIs
* Rs 45,000 crore partial credit guarantee scheme 2.0 for liabilities of NBFCs/MFIs
* Rs 90,000 crore liquidity injection for stressed discoms
* Relief to contractors given by providing extension of up to 6 months to complete projects
* States are being advised to invoke the force majeure clause under RERA.
* Reduction in rates of Tax Deduction at Source, Tax Collected at Source by 25 per cent for specified non-salaried payments
* Extension of deadline for payment without additional amount under “Vivad Se Vishwas” scheme extended till December 31.
PM MODI HAILS ECONOMIC MEASURES
The series of measures announced on Wednesday by the government to boost the economy hit by the coronavirus lockdown will enhance liquidity, empower entrepreneurs and strengthen their competitive spirit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
He also said the announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will go a long way in addressing issues faced by businesses, especially Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
“The steps announced will boost liquidity, empower the entrepreneurs and strengthen their competitive spirit,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.
Today’s announcements by FM @nsitharaman will go a long way in addressing issues faced by businesses, especially MSMEs. The steps announced will boost liquidity, empower the entrepreneurs and strengthen their competitive spirit. #AatmaNirbharBharatAbhiyan
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 13, 2020
OPPOSITION TERMS CENTRE’S MEASURES AS ‘BIG ZERO’
The Opposition slammed the Centre’s announcement on the first tranche of economic stimulus package as a “disappointment” and a “big zero” that has “nothing” for migrant workers, even as the BJP hailed it, saying it reflected the government’s commitment towards creating jobs and stimulating the economy.
Congress leader P Chidambaram, however, said the Centre’s Covid-19 economic stimulus package had nothing for lakhs of poor and hungry migrant workers who have been walking to their homes.
While opposition parties, including the Left and the Trinamool Congress, flayed the government, the ruling BJP welcomed the package with its president J P Nadda asserting that the measures like provision of collateral free loans, debts and equity for MSMEs, liquidity for NBFCs and support to real estate and other tax measures shows the commitment to creating jobs and stimulating economy. “I thank PM Narendra Modi and Nirmala Sitharaman for this holistic package & wide ranging steps to make India ‘atmanirbhar bharat’. In this testing time, we have a compassionate and responsive government under the leadership of our Prime Minister Modi Ji,” Nadda said.
Consultancy major KPMG India’s Chairman and CEO Arun Kumar said MSMEs are critical for employment preservation and growth and helping them is the surest way to accelerate job creation. He also welcomed measures for improving liquidity for lenders and businesses, including by helping non-banking finance companies.
While the wheels have been set in motion to bring the economy back on track, the effects are not likely to reach migrants anytime soon. Having given up hope of finding work, food or shelter, lakhs of migrant workers are still walking on the highways of India. These are the people who have not even been able to afford a ticket to ride the Sharamik Special train.
As they try to cover thousands of kilometres on foot, many migrants have come across life or death situation. A pregnant woman, who was walking home from Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh in the middle of the ongoing lockdown, delivered a baby on the road. She then walked for another 150 kilometre. Some migrants have died due to sunstroke, many others in road accidents.
Reports of migrant protests are coming from Mumbai, where police had to disperse people asking for a special train to UP with lathicharge.
PM CARES FUND
In a glimmer of hope for the migrants, PM CARES fund trust allocated Rs 1,000 crore to resolve their probelms. The trust fund, created on March 27, on Wednesday announced that it has decided to allocate Rs 3,100 crore for fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the amount will be used, among other things, to purchase ventilators and caring for migrant workers, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Another Rs 100 crore will be given to support coronavirus vaccine development efforts, a PMO statement said.
The statement said state and UT-wise funds will be released on the weightage of population of the state as per 2011 Census 50 per cent weightage. Number of positive Covid-19 cases as on date 40 per cent weightage. And equal share — 10 per cent weightage for all states to ensure basic minimum sum for all.
The fund will be released to the district collector or district magistrate or municipal commissioner through the State Disaster Relief Commissioner.
KARNATAKA LIKELY TO OPEN GYMS, FITNESS CENTRES, GOLF COURSES AFTER MAY 17
Karnataka Tourism Minister C T Ravi on Wednesday hinted at the government permitting the opening of gyms, fitness centres and golf courses after May 17 when the third phase of the Covid-19 induced lockdown comes to an end.
“Today I met the Chief Minister and discussed the opening of fitness centres, golf courses and giving permission for hotels to provide service… to encourage the revival of tourism at local level while maintaining social distancing,” he told reporters.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT TO RESUME IN HARYANA FROM FRIDAY
The public transport in Haryana will resume in the state on an “experimental basis” from Friday, with a limited number of buses plying on select routes.
Even as the state looks to ease coronavirus restrictions to spur economic and other activities, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar made it clear that his government will not lower its guard and will not hesitate in imposing stricter curbs if things don’t go as planned.
Khattar said, “Local state transport, we are starting from Friday on an experimental basis.”
“Like, we will run a few buses on Panchkula, Ambala, Sirsa, Mahendragarh, Narnaul routes..,” he told a press conference through video conferencing on Wednesday evening.
EVACUATIONS CONTINUE VIA TRAINS, FLIGHTS
Thousands of people travelled back home aborad the special passengers trains and Shramik Specials being run by the Indian Railways while hundreds of student flew back home in Air India flights being operated under Vande Bharat Mission.
Two Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) aircraft carrying a total of 240 Indians who were stranded in Kuwait amid Covid-19 outbreak landed at Devi Ahilyabai Holkar International Airport here on Wednesday night.
The Railway Board has issued an order introducing the provision of waiting list tickets not only for its operational special trains but for more such trains “to be notified in due course”.
The railways has, however, capped the waiting list on these trains — up to 100 for AC 3 Tier, 50 for AC 2 Tier, 200 for Sleeper Class, 100 for Chair Cars and 20 each for First AC and Executive Class.
DELHI GOVT STARTS RUNNING DTC BUSES ONLY FOR RAILWAY PASSENGERS
The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has started running buses for passengers arriving at New Delhi railway station from different destinations across the country after resumption of train services for the general public, he said.
DTC buses have also been deployed to transport migrant workers from various government shelters in the city to the railway station.
For passengers reaching the railway station from different places in the country, DTC has started 20 shuttle busses to take them up to Shivaji Stadium and Ambedkar terminal, officials said.
From these two terminals, the passengers will be sent to different areas in the city and dropped at respective district magistrate offices. The number of buses run from these two points will depend on the number of passengers, they said.
Arunachal Pradesh government has also made arrangements for transportation of returnees who will reach Assam by special trains from New Delhi from Wednesday onwards.
NATIONWIDE TALLY JUMPS BY OVER 3,500 CASES
In its morning update, the Union Health Ministry said the death toll due to Covid-19 has risen to 2,415 and the number of cases has climbed to 74,281, registering an increase of 122 deaths and 3,525 cases since Tuesday morning. This included over 47,000 active cases and more than 24,000 who have recovered.
However, a tally of numbers disclosed by states and UTs, as of 9.25 PM, showed at least 77,903 total cases across the country and the death toll at 2,473. It also showed more than 25,000 having recovered so far.
Maharashtra reported 1,495 new cases, its highest single-day count so far, and 54 more deaths including 40 in worst-hit Mumbai.
The number of coronavirus cases in Gujarat also rose to 9,268 with 364 new cases detected during the day including 292 in Ahmedabad district alone.
In the national capital, the Covid-19 death toll has risen to 106, after 20 deaths which took place earlier in April and May were reported on Wednesday. The total number of coronavirus cases in Delhi has climbed to 7,998 after 359 fresh cases were reported.
The total Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu breached the 9,000 mark with more than 500 people testing positive during the day. The death toll of the state also rose to 64.
NO NEW CASES IN 9 STATES/UNION TERRITORIES
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said nine states and UTs, including Chhattisgarh, Ladakh, Manipur and Meghalaya, have not reported any new case of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours while Daman and Diu, Sikkim, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have not reported any cases so far.
Vardhan also said the doubling time of cases has improved to 12.6 in the last three days, from 11 in the past 14 days. He further observed that the fatality rate is 3.2 per cent and the recovery rate is pegged at 32.8 per cent.