Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's daily press conferences are only adding to the confusion, making India increasingly skeptical and restless. He also suggested the Centre to consider the list of recommendations prepared by his party for the government's economic stimulus package.
Gandhi said that 52 days have passed since India was put under lockdown. On one hand, the Nation is fighting COVID-19 and on the other, our farmers, migrant labourers, shopkeepers, salaried classes and small and medium industries i.e. MSMEs are facing an unprecedented economic crisis.
"I have been repeatedly emphasising the pressing need for an exhaustive economic package, for all sections of society. Although the Prime Minister belatedly announced an economic stimulus package on May 12, 2020, the specific details and the contours of the package and its true extent, are not yet clear to the public and are rather opaque," said Gandhi.
"The Finance Minister's daily press conferences on the issue are only adding to the confusion, making India increasingly skeptical and restless," he added.
Meanwhile our migrant labour tragedy continues to unfold across India. Lakhs of men, women and children are on the march, desperate to get back to their homes, said Gandhi.
The biggest migration since independence is underway, triggered by policies divorced from India's ground realities and ignoring the needs of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, who have been left to fend for themselves, he added.
He continued saying that, yet, till today, the Government has been unable to tell us what it plans to do for this huge mass of people, whose livelihoods have been cut off, as a result of the nationwide lockdown.
"Our farmers have met a similar fate. Unseasonal rains and hailstorms have destroyed their crops in many parts of India. The nationwide lockdown has put a brake on the sale of the harvest at Minimum Support Price (MSP). GST continues to be imposed on fertilizers, pesticides and even agricultural equipment," said Gandhi.
"Though global prices have crashed, the price of diesel, which our farmers use across India, hasn't seen any reduction. Whether it is the fruit growing farmer or the vegetable farmer or those engaged in floriculture or in growing wheat or sarson, all sections feel the same unbearable pain. Yet other than rehashing old schemes and making some advances against them, no concrete steps have been taken to relieve our farmers of their suffering," he added.
The government's apathy can also be seen in how our MSMEs that create over 11 crore jobs, are being treated. Instead of concrete financial relief, the Government has offered them loans, driving them into a debt trap from which many will never exit, said Gandhi.
The story is no different when it comes to our small traders, shopkeepers, the salaried middle class, government employees and pensioners. All are waiting for concrete steps from the government to help them tide over these difficult times. That help it would appear is not forthcoming, he added.
"Within the Congress party, our consultative process had helped us create a list of recommendations for the government's economic stimulus package. Although the government has as yet not acted on these recommendations, it is still not too late for it to seriously consider the recommendations, presented below," said Gandhi.
Elaborating the Extend 'Income Support' to at least 13 crore poorest households. Transfer Rs.7,500 preferably to each household. Even if Rs.5,000 is transferred to each of the 13 crore households, it will amount to a total of only Rs.65,000 crore, which we can afford.
"100 days of guaranteed wage employment under MGNREGA should be doubled to 200 days to provide more relief and avenues to earn. Close to 28-30% of our population now resides in urban areas. A MGNREGA like guaranteed wage employment programme must be introduced in urban areas as well," said Gandhi.
"Ensure Food Security for even the 11 crore people currently outside PDS. Our godowns are full of grains. Please ensure delivery of 10 kg food grains (rice or wheat), 1 kg pulses and 1 kg sugar to every individual every month for a period of next six months," he added.
Speaking about agriculture and farmers he said, empower and support the 'Annadaata' farmer.
"Transfer Rs.10,000 as Urgent Income Support to each of the 8.22 crore PM Kisan Yojana accounts, purchase every ounce of food grains at MSP and remove GST on Fertilizers, Pesticides and Agricultural Equipment immediately," said Gandhi.
"6.25 crore MSMEs generate over 11 crore jobs. Give 1 lakh crore 'Wage Protection Scheme' and multi-crore 'Credit Guarantee Scheme' to MSMEs. Give six months interest subsidy equal to six months of interest on loan taken by MSMEs," he added.
Speaking about the large industries Gandhi said that similar credit guarantee up and interest subsidy facilities must be extended to big businesses as well, provided they support their ancillarauxiliary units. This will ensure the value chain continues to survive and no layoffs happen.
Except for hotspots, retail supply chains should be restored. This will bring relief to around 7 crore shopkeepers all across India, said Gandhi.
The Government is duty bound to ensure the safe return of all our migrant brothers and sisters to their homes, free of cost. Steps must be taken for their protection and wellbeing and to ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect, he added.
"Local will become vocal when he will get food to eat. Centre should ensure that the migrants reach back their homes and they should assure them to bring back to the cities later," said Gandhi.
"In the relief package, the government should directly deposit money in the account of the poor. The poor wants money not loan. The government is not providing money in the account due to foreign rating agency, Centre should not worry about that," he added.
( With inputs from ANI )