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The Government of India (GoI) on Thursday has given nod for the 'unemployment allowance', eased the norms offer 50 percent of salary for three months to lakhs of workers who are members of the Employees State Insurance Corporation and lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

This move, however, has come in a major relief for industrial workers, who have lost jobs or are on the verge of losing jobs due to the impact of coronavirus induced lockdown, which had halted the economic activity for more than 3 months. 

Earlier, there have been massive demands from different sections to provide wage relief to the workers, who have been hit hard by the pandemic. Two months ago, the finance ministry and Niti Aayog had demanded that the rule be eased. 

The employees will be eligible to claim the allowance for three months, which means from the start of lockdown on March 24 to December 31. They should have been part of the ESI scheme for at least 2 years during the period from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020, and should have contributed for minimum 78 days during the period from October 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, and also in one of the other three six-monthly contribution periods from April 1, 2018. 

The ESIC board has approved relaxation in eligibility criteria and enhancement in the payment of unemployment benefit under its Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana, it said in a statement. It is implementing the Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyna Yojna under which unemployment benefit is paid to the workers covered under the ESI scheme.

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According to the statement, the ESIC has decided to extend the scheme for one more year up to June 30, 2021. "It has been decided to relax the existing conditions and the amount of relief for workers who have lost employment during the COVID-19 pandemic period," the statement says.

The enhanced relief under the relaxed conditions will be payable from March 24, 2020, to December 31, 2020. Thereafter the scheme will be available with original eligibility condition during the period January 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021.

The review of these (relaxed) conditions will be done after December 31 this year depending upon the need and demand for such relaxed conditions, it said. 

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