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Is Nirmala Sitharaman’s COVID 19 Response The Economic Solution To Women’s Financial Problems?

Posted: March 26, 2020

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of socio-economic reforms amidst the current lockdown. But what economic benefits does it offer women?

Nirmala Sitharaman’s recent announcement in the wake of the lockdown comes at a crucial time as the government mitigates the social and economic impacts the country faces right now. Her proposals will kick start immediately so that women and other vulnerable groups can prepare and plan financially for the near future.

This crisis reveals an intersectional lens into how conflict and global problems can have an adverse and disproportionate burden on women. Especially those who face the threat of violence at home, and work in unorganised sectors or have their own businesses. 

What the reforms entail

As part of a financial relief package, over 20 crore Jan Dhan account holders will receive ₹500 for the next three months. This will be done by means of a direct transfer. It will ensure that women continue to utilise and benefit from free and open banking facilities to support their families during this trying time. 

Additionally, women from poor socio-economic backgrounds can also benefit from the provision of funds amounting to ₹1.7 lakh by the Gareeb Kalyan Yojna. This will alleviate the economic hardships of poor during the lockdown so they can afford food and basic living expenses. Fortunately, under this scheme, an additional five kilos of rice or wheat, and one kilo of pulse will be provided to 80 crore households for the next three months.

To address the needs of old age women and windows, around ₹1000 will be provided for the next three months to over three crore individuals. In addition, women self-help groups such as the Deen Dayal National Livelihood Mission will benefit from collateral-free loans amounting to ₹20 lakh. Over 8.3 million Women Ujjawala scheme beneficiaries will even receive free cylinders for the next three months.

Moreover, proposals that benefit the economy and poorer households will also help women. For example, financial shortfalls will be now reduce significantly, given that withdrawals at all ATMs and other financial services will be free of cost. GST return deadlines have also been extended to June 30th.

For the women in unorganised sectors losing out on their work and pay, the now waived minimum balance criteria for bank accounts will be of significant help. 

A Perfect Solution?

Hopefully, with the provision of these services and compensations, women’s financial needs will be addressed, at least for the time being. However, these proposals remain short term solutions in the wake of the government-issued lockdown.

For instance, the financial compensations for women-headed micro-businesses and enterprises still have not been discussed. Neither were the repercussions faced by women in unorganised and informal sectors.

Further considerations, especially pertaining to the mental and emotional health of women as they have to bear the added burden of household work. Along with this, the exacerbation of other social issues such as domestic violence and abuse also hangs in the balance. 

Overall, with the immediate introduction of these hasty measures, women will be able to look after themselves and take care of their basic necessities. As society comes to a standstill, it becomes imperative for governments to understand the hidden pitfalls this socio-economic quagmire will have on women.

Picture credits: YouTube

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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and

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