New Delhi: Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram Wednesday suggested the government to provide direct cash support to urban and rural poor to alleviate their distress during and after the 21-day lockdown period.
Chidambaram said that current employment and wages have to be protected while stressing the need to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the state governments in this time of crisis.
He added his proposals will address the immediate challenge of putting cash in the hands of the people and the need for more cash transfers could be assessed depending on the evolving situation.
My statement on the current lockdown and how the Government can help make it better. @PMOIndia @narendramodi @nsitharaman @nsitharamanoffc @FinMinIndia #STAYHOMEINDIA pic.twitter.com/0sQJwG0HAD
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) March 25, 2020
Presenting a 10-point plan, Chidambaram has proposed to double the payouts under the PM-KISAN scheme to Rs 12,000 from Rs 6,000, and immediate transfer of this amount to the beneficiaries and bringing tenant farmers under the scheme.
He also favoured transferring a sum of Rs 3,000 into the bank accounts of each beneficiary under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. He conceded there could be some double payments because of overlapping beneficiaries but said that if this was 15 per cent, it was still worth doing the transfers.
Distribution of free food grains
For the urban poor, Chidamabaram has suggested transfer of Rs 6,000 into their Jan Dhan and No Frill accounts.
Besides cash transfers, the former finance minister also favoured distribution of free food grains through ration shops. He suggested giving 10 kg of wheat or rice free to the people in the next 21 days, while arranging for home delivery of these food grains.
To protect jobs, Chidambaram urged the central government to ask registered employers to maintain the current level of employment and wages, while assuring them that the wages paid will be reimbursed within 30 days of payment.
To ensure even the homeless get some support, he suggested such people should be given Rs 3,000 after opening their bank accounts.
He also suggested that banks should extend the date of payment of any equated monthly installment until 30 June. He also favoured a cut in GST rates by 5 per cent on all wage goods, essential goods and services, and goods of mass consumption for the first quarter.
Lockdown to hit economy
The Indian economy is likely to be badly hit as the 21-day lockdown announced to curb the spread of the highly infectious novel coronavirus has brought economic activity to a near halt, leaving many jobless.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a press conference Tuesday, assured that the government was working on a comprehensive economic package to provide relief to everyone who has been affected. She had said that the package will be announced soon.
Many states have already announced relief packages, aimed at providing free food grains and cash in the hands of the poor.
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