P Chidambaram suggests 10-point plan to deal with lockdown impactUpdated: Mar 25, 2020 23:43 IST
Congress leader P Chidambaram on Wednesday described the three-week countrywide lockdown to check the coronavirus (Covid-19) spread a “watershed moment” in the battle against the pandemic and suggested a 10-point plan to deal with its impact, including putting money in the bank accounts of the poor and marginalised.
Chidambaram, a former Union finance minister, demanded a cut in Goods and Services Tax rates by 5% on all wage goods, essential goods and services, and all goods of mass consumption from April 1 to June 30. He called for doubling the money paid and payable under the PM-KISAN scheme to Rs 12,000 and transfer of the additional amounts immediately.
Under PM-KISAN, Rs 6,000 is annually paid to farmer families across the country in equal instalments.
For tenant farmers, Chidambaram called for bringing them under PM-KISAN and transferring Rs 12,000 (in two instalments) to their bank accounts. He said Rs 3,000 should be transferred into bank accounts of workers registered under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme.
For the urban poor, Chidambaram suggested transfer of Rs 6,000 into their Jan Dhan accounts, besides offering them rice for 10 per kg or wheat absolutely free, as a one-time measure over the next 21 days.
He called for asking all registered employers 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.”
Chidambaram suggested opening a register in every ward or block and invite people, who have not received payment under any of the categories. These, he said, should include street people and destitute. 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 added.
The Congress leader sought extension of deadlines for payment of any kind of taxes until June 30. 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 banks should be instructed to extend the date for any kind of EMI payments until 30 June.
The Congress on Wednesday separately urged the government to implement the Nyuntam Aay Yojana, or Nyay, a minimum income guarantee scheme it had proposed as a pre-poll promise ahead of the 2019 national elections, as an immediate measure to counter the impact of the three-week lockdown on the poor and daily wagers.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had promised that 20% of the country’s poorest families will be given Rs 72,000 each annually under the scheme if his party came to power. The scheme envisaged to cover 50 million families with each earning at least Rs 12,000 monthly.
BJP spokesperson Gopal Agarwal said, “We welcome all suggestions and support. But the government is already on the job and working on a package. It is thinking not only for 21-day but for a long term revival.”