The Centre is looking at measures such as dipping into the District Mineral Fund (DMF) and offering free cooking gas cylinders to support families in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown.

As of January, the total amount accrued under the DMF by the 21 mineral-rich States stood at ₹35,925.39 crore. The allocated amount stood at ₹30,651.59 crore, while the amount spent was at ₹12,414.38 crore. If the allocation for existing projects is left undisturbed, the 21 States will be left with about ₹5,000 crore for therelief measures.

“We will request the State governments to utilise the funds which are available under the District Mineral Fund for supplementing and augmenting medical testing, screening and other activities,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said while announcing a ₹1.7-lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package aimed at supporting the rural and urban poor affected by the lockdown.

“This is being done so that medical screening, testing and providing of health assessment will not suffer,” Sitharaman said.

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Sitharaman also said the beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) will be given free LPG cylinders over a three-month period to ensure food security. Some estimates have pegged the cost of distributing the free cylinders at ₹13,000 crore.

“The scheme, including measures such as cash transfer, insurance cover, ensuring food security and the decision to provide free LPG cylinders for 3 months to all beneficiaries of PMUY, will give relief to millions of poor,” Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, tweeted shortly after the package was announced.

According to officials in the know, PMUY beneficiaries will be offered 3 cylinders during the three-month period, free of cost. The free cylinders will be limited to one per month. The initial cost of disbursing the cylinders will be borne by the oil PSUs.

The cost of the free cylinders will be later reimbursed by the Centre to the oil PSUs.