The government on Thursday, 26 March unveiled the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package of Rs 1.70 lakh crore that involves free food grain and cooking gas to the poor for the next three months, one-time doles to women and poor senior citizens, higher wages to workers and measures to boost liquidity of employees, as it looked to contain the impact of unprecedented nationwide lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Reactions from people across the country started pouring in immediately after the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the package.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package will go a long way in ensuring the food and livelihood security of the poor. "It is our firm resolve that the poor and vulnerable get all possible help to cope with the testing times," Modi tweeted.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi welcomed the financial package announced by the Centre, saying it was the first step in the right direction.
Reacting to the announcement, Rahul Gandhi in a tweet said, "The government 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 and the elderly who are bearing the brunt of the ongoing lockdown."
BJP hailed the package saying it will help the poor, farmers and other needy sections of the society when the nation is on a 21-day lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Party President JP Nadda said that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a "huge relief" for the poor in this hour of crisis, and asserted that it is the ruling party's resolve that nobody is left hungry.
Home Minister Amit Shah said the announcement shows the sensitivity of the government towards the poor and other vulnerable sections of society.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was quoted by PTI as saying, "The step taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package is a step which should be welcomed by all. India is the first country to announce any such relief package."
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar too welcomed the Centre's Rs 1.70 lakh crore package, saying it was necessary in view of the coronavirus outbreak and assured that the state government will ensure the benefits reach the poor and needy.
Pawar who is the state finance minister, in a statement said the Centre must announce regular financial relief as the crisis situation unfolds. He demanded a separate fund for setting up emergency health care services in the state and rest of the country.
Praising the Centre's move, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant tweeted, "The decision of Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri @narendramodiji to provide 1 lakh 70 thousand crores package through Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana is commendable. This will provide great relief to the poor and will strengthen the effort to fight #COVID19."
Beside political leaders, joining in the praise for Finance Ministry's announcement was senior economist Brinda Jagirdar, who also highlighted the importance of implementation of the announcement.
“The package is very generous, a lot more needs to be done. There’s so much panic and so much uncertainty. The efforts say you are not alone, the government is with you, the next is implementation,” Jagirdar was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Former Infosys director and startup investor Mohandas Pai also hailed the package while urging for a deferment on loan repayments.
However, some considered the package too small for the size of the population in India. Professor Ashok Swain tweeted, "While giving a relief package, which is peanut for a country of India's size and a crisis of unimaginable proportion like corona crisis, no end to shameless of the regime as they name the package as if it is a gift from Modi! (sic)"
In other tweets, he compared the packages announced by other countries in the wake of the global pandemic.
The CPI(M) said that the economic package announced by the Centre in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic was inadequate.
CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury issued a statement and later wrote a letter to the PM expressing his disappointment over the package.
Trinamool Congress responded to the package saying the Centre has taken a "cue" from the one offered by the party-led dispensation in West Bengal.
TMC MP Derek O'Brien tweeted, "Centre takes cue from relief plans already rolled out by state government's like Bengal a week ago -- free 6 months ration for the poor, health insurance for champion frontliners fighting corona and Rs 1,000 for daily wagers under new Prochesta scheme. Will supplement state efforts."
(With inputs from PTI.)