The Indian government has outlined a ₹1.7tr ($22.6bn, £19bn) stimulus package to help millions of the country’s poorest citizens amid a nationwide lockdown intended to arrest the spread of Covid-19.
With more than 1.3 billion Indians told to stay home for 21 days, the pandemic has taken a significant toll on the nation’s already fragile economy. On Monday, Indian stocks suffered their worst day on record with the NIFTY 50 index plunging more than 12 per cent, while the rupee hit a record low on the dollar.
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government hopes its measures will keep 800 million poorer Indians fed between now and June.
Every low-income family will receive a kilogram of pulses, while each eligible person will be given 5kg of stable rice or wheat. Free cooking gas cylinders will be given to 83 million worse-off families and 200 million women and elderly Indians will receive direct cash transfers to keep them going.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “We do not want anyone to remain hungry, so we will be giving them enough to take care of food grain requirements and protein requirements, in terms of pulses.”
The government also detailed measures for medical insurance cover of ₹5m for every frontline health worker in India’s resource-starved public health service.
Compared to other nations, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India remains relatively low at 694 with 14 deaths. However, some have argued that such low figures mainly reflect the lack of testing kits in the country.
As well as measures to ensure citizens remain fed, the Indian government has outlined plans to stimulate the economy and safeguard small and medium-sized businesses. By the end of Thursday trading the Nifty 50 closed up 6.62 per cent at 8,317.85, while Bombay’s BSE Sensex index closed up 4.94 per cent at 29946.77.