Covid-19 economic proposal stokes controversy, redrafted

Updated on May 24, 2020 01:53 AM IST

In a series of tweets, historian Ramachandra Guha, another signatory, said he did not endorse the clause 7.1. “The Mission Jai Hind Statement that was sent to me had this broad statement of principle as clause 7.1, which I approved, namely: ‘All resources within the nation are national resources, available for this mission’,” he tweeted.

Swaraj India national president Yogendra Yadav, who is one of the signatories of the plan, said the contentious clause 7.1 has attracted undue attention and interpreted to mean a call for nationalisation/expropriation of private property.(ANI)
Swaraj India national president Yogendra Yadav, who is one of the signatories of the plan, said the contentious clause 7.1 has attracted undue attention and interpreted to mean a call for nationalisation/expropriation of private property.(ANI)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByRajeev Jayaswal

A group of economists, intellectuals and activists on Saturday redrafted their seven-point ‘Mission Jai Hind’ proposal to deal with the Covid-19 crisis after one of their suggestions of treating all resources of the nation and its citizens -- cash, real estate, property and bonds -- as national resources triggered a controversy. Some of the plan’s signatories also opposed the idea.

The controversial part was changed to say the government “must explore emergency ways of raising resources going beyond the usual set of taxes and levies to cope with the problem of funding large relief packages”. The group has also proposed universal access to ration, free healthcare, employment guarantee, compensation for job losses, a moratorium on interest payments, and transportation of stranded migrants to their homes.

Swaraj India national president Yogendra Yadav, who is one of the signatories of the plan, said the contentious clause 7.1 has attracted undue attention and interpreted to mean a call for nationalisation/expropriation of private property. He called this far from their intention while hoping the focus will remain on the plan outlined to “address health, economic & humanitarian crisis”.

In a series of tweets, historian Ramachandra Guha, another signatory, said he did not endorse the clause 7.1. “The Mission Jai Hind Statement that was sent to me had this broad statement of principle as clause 7.1, which I approved, namely: ‘All resources within the nation are national resources, available for this mission’,” he tweeted.

“The published version had a radically different clause 7.1: ‘All the resources (cash, real estate, property, bonds, etc) with the citizens or within the nation must be treated as national resources available during this crisis.’ I have not and do not endorse this.”

“This clause, that has become deeply tendentious with the major changes made without the consent of some signatories, has taken attention away from the many sensible suggestions made in the Statement,” Guha added in a third tweet.

Maitreesh Ghatak, a professor at the London School of Economics who also endorsed the proposal, said the controversial point had raised “some legitimate questions about what we mean”. “It is not intended to be confiscatory or to advocate large-scale nationalisation. All it means is that in crisis situations... the government has to explore emergency ways of raising resources going beyond the usual set of taxes and levies,” he tweeted.

Guha called the reformulated point “extremely appropriate” and added all controversy should now be set at rest. “I trust that fellow citizens shall focus on the many important recommendations in our plan and will urge Central and State Governments to implement it.”

In a press release, the group said the government’s stimulus package announced this month to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has “virtually” ignored the urgent need for economic support to ordinary citizens whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered.

Economist Shamika Ravi, a former member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, hit out at the controversial proposal. “Such ‘leading economists’ have done enough damage already in this country. This document is an assault on private property in India,” Ravi tweeted.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s national media panellist, Tuhin A Sinha, called it a devious plan to legitimise usurping of private property and assets.

Other signatories of the proposal include former member of now-defunct Planning Commission Abhijit Sen, former chief economic advisor Deepak Nayyar, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Jayati Ghosh, JNU associate professor Himanshu, Azim Premji University associate professor Amit Basole, social activists Jean Drèze and Harsh Mander and academic Rajmohan Gandhi.

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