New Delhi, Mar 25 : Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement for nationwide lockdown for 21 days a ‘watershed moment in the battle against COVID 19”, and put forward a 10-point suggestion to meet the economic challenges people are facing while in lockdown.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of a nationwide 21 day lockdown is a watershed moment in the battle against COVID19. We should put behind us the debates that took place before March 24 and look upon the nationwide lockdown as the beginning of a new battle in which the people are the foot soldiers and the Prime Minister is the commander. We owe a duty to extend our total support to the Prime Minister and central and state governments”, Mr Chidambaram said in a statement, a day after Mr Modi had announced the lockdown. The former Union Minister said that #StayhomeIndia is a great rally cry and added that “but to #stayhomeIndia, people will need food.”
“We must think and plan not only for the next 21 days but for some weeks beyond the lockdown period. Besides, current employment and wages must be protected”, he said. Mr Chidamabram said he is placing the idea for the consideration of the government to put cash and food immediately in the hands of the poor and the vulnerable. On farmers, he suggested, 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. For tenant farmers, bring tenant farmers under PM-KISAN and take the lists from the state governments and transfer Rs 6000 + Rs 6000 (in two installments) to the bank account of each tenant farmer. He suggested to take the lists of registered MGNREGA workers and transfer a sum of Rs 3000 into the bank account of each beneficiary.
For the urban poor, Mr Chidamabram said, take the Jan Dhan accounts with the urban branches of the banks and transfer a sum of Rs 6,000 into the bank account of each beneficiary. For food grains, he suggested to offer every ration card holder, through the ration shops, 10 kg of rice or wheat absolutely free, as a one-time measure in the next 21 days and also arrange for home delivery. “Ask all registered employers (registered under any law) to maintain current levels of employment and wages. Guarantee to such employers who do so that the wages of the employees will be reimbursed by the government within 30 days of payment”, he said.
Mr Chidambaram further 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”, he said and added “after minimal verification, open a bank account in each name (if there is not already one), seed it with Aadhaar and transfer Rs 3000 into each bank account” The former Finance Minister suggested extending the deadlines for payment of any kind of tax until 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 added. He further asked to instruct banks to extend the date for any kind of EMI payment until June 30, 2020. “Cut GST rates by 5 per cent on all wage goods, essential goods and services, and all goods of mass consumption for the period April 1 to June 30, 2020”, he added. (UNI)