Sonia Gandhi to chair opposition meet over migrants’ plight on Friday
Fifteen parties have confirmed their participation in the meeting.Updated: May 19, 2020 16:51 IST
Congress president Sonia Gandhi will chair a meeting of opposition leaders to discuss the prevailing situation in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, the impact of nationwide lockdown and the government’s announcement of Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package to revive the Covid-19 hit economy on Friday.
The meeting, to be held via video-conferencing, will also discuss the plight of stranded migrant workers walking thousands of kilometers back to their home states, the problems faced by the farmers and the suspension of labour laws in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Apart from the Congress, the meeting is expected to be attended by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Samajwadi Party (SP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP).
This will be the first meeting of the opposition leaders after the lockdown was enforced across the country on March 25 to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. As on Tuesday, the number of coronavirus cases in India has crossed one lakh mark with over 3,100 deaths. The government on Sunday further extended the lockdown till May 31 while relaxing certain restrictions.
A Congress leader familiar with the development said both Gandhi and NCP’s Sharad Pawar were keen to hold the meeting and chalk out the future course of action in terms of putting pressure on the government to accept their demands for announcing adequate relief measures, including direct cash transfer, for the poor, migrant workers, farmers.
The issue of travel of stranded migrant workers to their home states has triggered a political slugfest between the Congress and the government. While the Congress has accused the government of being insensitive to the plight of stranded migrant workers, the BJP denied the charge and blamed the opposition party for politicising the issue.
The other bone of contention between the two sides is the suspension of labour laws in BJP-ruled states. While former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the fight against the coronavirus cannot be an excuse to exploit the workers, suppress their voice and crush their human rights, the BJP insisted that labour law reforms are a long-standing demand of trade unions and industries.
On Monday, Pawar wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the Centre’s stimulus package lacked provisions to compensate the losses incurred by farmers during the lockdown period as a result of which they are left with no cash in their hands.
He said the package announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is “more of the supply chain-centric”, whose benefits will take longer time to reach the farmers.
Pawar also suggested that the procurement price for food grains be decided after taking into consideration the net profit component, which would increase the efficiency of the package for farmers in a true sense.
“At the time of determining the prices of food grains, we do not consider the net profit on the final product. Unless we do it, farmers will never get proper rate for their produce,” he added.
The NCP chief further said it would take longer to trickle down the benefits of the stimulus package to farmers.
“Restructuring of crop loans ahead of the Kharif season is paramount. Farmers have already incurred heavy losses during the lockdown, and they do not have cash in hand to make necessary purchases. No provision is made in the Centre’s package to these farmers for their losses,” he said.