BH CORRESPONDENT, New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday praised the announcement of economic relief package by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman amid the coronavirus lockdown in the country, calling it the “first step in the right direction”.
“The Govt announcement today of a financial assistance package, is the first step in the right direction. India owes a debt to its farmers, daily wage earners, labourers, women & the elderly who are bearing the brunt of the ongoing lockdown,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi.
Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to PM Modi, voicing her support to the 21-day lockdown announced by him in view of the coronavirus outbreak, and suggested several measures such as protection of doctors, easing the supply chains and deferment of loans.
Sitharaman on Thursday unveiled a Rs 1.70 lakh crore economic package for the poor and the needy to tide over the unprecedented shutdown of the country.
Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram said it is the beginning of a new battle in which the people are the foot soldiers and the PM is the commander. He termed the PM’s nationwide 21-day lockdown announcement a “watershed moment” in the country’s fight against COVID-19.
After government announced financial packages, Chidambaram expressed his gratitude on Twitter.
I am glad that the government has announced a Financial Action Plan today that reflects some elements of the 10-point plan that I had put forward yesterday. I offer a cautious welcome.
It is a modest plan. In due course, government will realize that it must do more.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) March 26, 2020
Earlier on Wednesday, in a series of tweets Chidambaram proposed a 10-point financial action plan to balance the country amid 21-day nationwide lockdown.
- Deadlines for payment of any kind of tax till 30 June 2020. In the interim, banks can be instructed to lend to panchayats, municipalities and corporations against the security of the tax receivables, he said.
- He said the government should instruct banks to extend the date for any kind of EMI payments till 30 June 2020.
- Chidambaram also recommended cutting GST rates by 5 per cent on all wage goods, essential goods and services, and all goods of mass consumption for the period 1 April to 30 June.
- For farmers, he urged the government to double the amount paid/payable under PM-KISAN to Rs 12,000 and transfer the additional amount immediately to the bank account of each beneficiary.
- Chidambaram suggested fund transfers in two instalments of Rs 6,000 each to bank accounts of tenant farmers.
- For registered MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) workers, he recommended a fund transfer of Rs 3,000 into the bank account of each beneficiary.
- For the urban poor, he urged the government to transfer a sum of Rs 6,000 through Jan Dhan account.
- Chidambaram recommended giving 10 kg of rice or wheat free to every ration card holder, as a one-time measure over the next 21 days. He also suggested home delivery of the same.
- He suggested that the government should ask all registered employers (registered under any law) to maintain current levels of employment and wages. Government should promise to reimburse employers who do so within 30 days of payment, Chidambaram said.
- “Open a register in every ward or block and invite persons who have not received payment under any of the categories listed above to register their name, address and Aadhaar. Street people and destitutes will fall under this category. After minimal verification, open a bank account in each name [if there is not already one], seed it with Aadhaar and transfer Rs. 3,000 into each bank account,” he said.