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India unveils 1.7 trillion rupee relief package to support low-income group

India unveiled a 1.7-trillion-rupee relief package, which includes distributing cash and food provisions to those in need, two days after the country announced a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said 800 million people belonging to the low-income group will be provided with food every month at no cost for the next three months, starting April 1. As many as 80 million "poor families" will be given gas cylinders free of cost, while about 30 million senior citizens will be handed out 1,000 rupees and over 200 million women will be provided with 500 rupees per month for three months.

Additionally, medical workers will be covered under a 5 million rupee medical insurance scheme. The government will also deposit 24% of the monthly wages in the provident fund accounts of employees earning less than 15,000 rupees in businesses with fewer than 100 workers.

The Reserve Bank of India could soon announce more steps to help businesses during the lockdown, Reuters said, citing officials. The government could raise its planned borrowing of 7.8 trillion rupees for the 2020-2021 fiscal year and defer taxes for sectors that have taken the biggest hits due to the coronavirus infection, such as hospitality, aviation and small businesses, the news outlet also reported.

India now has 727 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 20 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As of March 26, US$1 was equivalent to 74.76 Indian rupees.

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.