Open industry, agriculture in first go, freeze DA: Punjab panel on lockdown exit
Recommending that industry and agriculture be allowed to resume functioning (outside of containment zones) in the first go of the lockdown exit from May 3, the state’s 20-member expert panel on exiting the lockdown submitted its report to the state government on Monday. The panel has not given specific dates, but adds that schools must be the last to open.
The committee that former state chief secretary KR Lakhanpal headed has also recommended that the state government has to bite the bullet to cut expenditure by considering the freezing of Dearness Allowance (DA) and wages for the current year. While recommending this, the panel said that this will bring pay parity with Haryana and the Centre as Punjab employees drew 25% more pay.
The report also recommends that liquor vends should start immediately to check loss of revenue, adding that it was even being sold illegally during curfew. The Centre, however, has disallowed all states from doing so; even a specific request from Punjab was turned down.
“The state will have to redraw its budget in view of covid-19 and give more relaxation to industry to kick-start the economy, while ensuring more testing and upgrade of health infrastructure,” the report notes, adding that the lockdown exit strategy be divided into health and non-health related objectives.
Expressing fear that Punjab’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may contract for the first time in 40 years, the panel recommends that the arrears of GST, VAT may be cleared and also allay the fear of FIRs being registered against industrialists.
Another recommendation is that Public Distribution System (PDS) may be made universal and extended to non-ration card holders, initially for a period of six months. Migrants must be included as beneficiaries, the panel adds.
The panel adds that the state must conduct, on priority, current semester/year exams for final year (graduation/post-graduation) students to help them explore educational/ job opportunities in July/August, 2020.
It adds that the results of Classes 5, 8 may be declared based on examinations already conducted and students be promoted in next class. The Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) may allow schools to declare the results of Class 10 based on the pre-board exams.
OTHER MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS
•To facilitate construction activity, entire supply line such as stores/shops supplying hardware, paint, cement, electrical goods, wood, glass, iron & steel, cement etc. should be allowed to operate.
•Ensure social net benefits, including old age pension are delivered to eligible persons at doorstep.
•Public Distribution System (PDS) may be made universal and extended to non-ration card holders, initially for a period of six months. Migrants must be included as beneficiaries
•The PSEB may consider holding examination of remaining subjects by creating additional centres to ensure social distancing
•To ensure delivery of books, printing presses need to be allowed to be opened as a special case