NEW DELHI :
The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved the extension for availing free cooking gas cylinders under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) to September-end.
This is part of the outreach programme of the government to financially weaker sections, including migrant workers, who were most affected by the lockdown put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The cabinet decision will benefit PMUY beneficiaries who have received the advance for buying a cylinder, but have not been able to purchase the refill, as part of the earlier announced Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) package. According to the scheme, women members of 83 million below poverty line (BPL) families could avail free cooking gas cylinders for three months till June.
The time limit for availing the benefit for Ujjwala beneficiaries has now been extended by three months with effect from 1 July, information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters after the cabinet meeting. “This will benefit those PMUY beneficiaries who have been credited with the advance for buying the cylinders, but have not been able to purchase the refill. Thus, the beneficiaries who already have the advance transferred to their account can now take the free refill delivery till 30 September," the petroleum ministry added on Wednesday.
The cabinet also approved the affordable rental housing complexes (ARHCs) for urban migrants and poor as a sub-scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). The scheme was announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in May under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package and seeks to target over 350,000 beneficiaries, which includes a large part of the workforce in manufacturing industries, service providers, construction workers, labourers and students who come to cities from small towns seeking better opportunities.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s intervention comes against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, which brought life to a standstill in the world’s second-most populous nation. Images of migrants walking to their villages and moffusils without food or water had caught the government machinery off-guard and led to outrage across India.
Under the housing scheme to be implemented by the Union ministry for housing and urban affairs, existing government funded housing complexes will be converted into ARHCs, through concession agreements for 25 years. Incentives will be given to private and public entities for the development of housing complexes on their own land for 25 years.
The scheme will create an ecosystem for housing in urban areas and will be made available near places of work, according to government officials.
“The covid-19 pandemic has resulted in massive reverse migration of workers/urban poor in the country who come from rural areas or small towns for seeking better employment opportunities in urban areas. Usually, these migrants live in slums, informal/unauthorized colonies or peri-urban areas to save rental charges," said the housing ministry.
These workers form the bulwark of India’s informal economy and found it impossible to make ends meet in the absence of any safety net as they were caught unawares. With the implementation of the lockdown, a large number of migrant workers left for their hometowns because of the rising costs of living in cities.