India to provide free food grains to millions of migrant workers

India to provide free food grains to millions of migrant workers
India will provide free food grains to millions of migrant workers hardest hit by a weeks-long lockdown as well as offer employment under a rural jobs programme, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.

The government will spend 35 billion rupees ($463m) on food for nearly 80 million migrant workers over the next two months, Sitharaman told a news conference on Thursday.

The allocation is part of a 20 trillion rupees ($266bn) fiscal and monetary package to prop up the ailing economy. Millions of workers have fled large towns and cities after they lost their jobs during the lockdown, which is aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"The government is concerned about migrant workers," Sitharaman said, adding that it provided funds to the states to provide shelter, food grain and transport for migrants.

Since April, the government has spent 100 billion rupees ($1.3bn) to offer work to nearly 23 million unemployed people in rural areas under the ongoing rural job guarantee programme, she said.

The government also plans to extend a bank loan interest subsidy programme for affordable housing to rented housing for migrant workers, she said. On Wednesday, it announced new credit lines by offering bank guarantees on loans of more than $60bn to small businesses, shadow banks and power companies.

In an address to the nation on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the package was equivalent to 10 percent of India's gross domestic product (GDP) and was meant to support workers and businesses reeling from the impact of the prolonged shutdown. Read More...

James Koroma

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