Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday announced a Rs 20,000-crore financial package to tackle the crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, PTI reported. The package includes Rs 500 crore for health initiatives, and Rs 2,000 crore for loans and free ration.
Kerala is the second worst-hit state in India, with 27 positive cases. Of this, three people have recovered. As of Thursday evening, the Indian government said there were 173 positive COVID-19 cases in India, and four people had died. COVID-19 has infected more than 2,22,000 people and killed over 9,000 across the world.
The state reported a new case on Thursday after a man who returned from Dubai tested positive, but the Centre is yet to confirm this case.
“Our state is facing a big crisis, normal life has been hit by this pandemic,” Vijayan said, according to The News Minute. “It has wreaked havoc on our economy and to revive the economy, we are announcing a Rs 20,000 crore package.” He added that everyone will get free rice for a month.
“Without differentiating families based on Below Poverty Line and Above Poverty Line cards, everyone will be given free rice,” the chief minister added. “APL [ABove Poverty Line] families will be given a total of 10 kg cereals. For this Rs 100 crore has been allotted.”
Loans worth Rs 2,000 crore would be disbursed to families in need through the all-women network of “Kudumbashree” in April and May, he said. Social security pensions that were scheduled to be given in April will be disbursed to 50 lakh people this month itself, he said, adding that this would amount to Rs 1,320 crore. Families that do not receive any social security pension will get Rs 1,000 each, he said, adding that this would cost Rs 1,00 crore.
Vijayan also announced that consumers would get an extra month to clear their water and electricity bills, and that movie theatres would get a waiver of the entertainment tax.
“Fitness fee for autorickshaws will be relaxed,” Vijayan added. “Stage carriage and contract carriage in buses will be tax-deductible. Stage carriers will be given a one-month exemption for three months tax.”
The chief minister added that a string of 1,000 low-cost food outlets will be opened in April. They will serve meals for Rs 20 instead of Rs 25. “We had to start these food outlets by September, but under the new circumstances, 1,000 food outlets will be started by April itself,” said Vijayan.