Around 10 lakh jobs have been lost in Punjab and the state is set to lose a whopping Rs 50,000 crore this year due to the coronavirus lockdown, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Sunday while hinting at some "tough measures" for revenue generation.
In an interview to PTI, Singh said the state was losing Rs 3,000 crore every month on the economic front. The CM said with some experts predicting a peak in coronavirus pandemic in July and August, Punjab was preparing itself "for the worst", and the massive influx of migrants and Indian returnees from abroad was emerging as the top disease management challenge.
"In April alone, we lost 88 per cent of our estimated revenue due to the lockdown. As per quick estimates, we are losing Rs 3,000 crore a month, and are looking at Rs 50,000 crore minimum in losses for the full year," Singh said. As for the job losses, he said, "initial estimates suggest the figure to be in the range of around 10 lakh, but clarity will come only once the COVID situation starts stabilizing".
Noting that the financial situation is "extremely critical", Singh said he has already asked all the 'non-essential' departments to cut down on expenses and manage their costs judiciously. "But, that is obviously not enough, so we will have to take some tough decisions," he said referring to fresh taxation measures. He said discussions are in progress and the state is mulling various options and will take a decision in the next couple of days.
Singh called for an urgent economic package for the states, saying with no GST, excise duty or VAT coming from transportation, all resources have dried up. Punjab is seeing the situation worsening going forward, unless the Centre steps in, the chief minister said.
"I don't know why they have not announced a relief package or revenue grant for states so far. We need funds to manage not just our routine expenses but the huge challenge of COVID from medical and humanitarian point of view. We need money immediately but it has not been forthcoming so far," he said.
A day after Punjab extended the coronavirus lockdown till May 31 with some curfew relaxations, the chief minister said the state was preparing for the worst with some experts predicting a peak in July/August, even stretching to September. Noting that there is no direct correlation between the curfew relaxations and the spurt in cases, the CM said the "biggest challenge right now is the large influx of people from other states and outside India".
"Till May 22, 10 flights are expected to bring in Punjabis, and the total number, as per MEA estimates, is 20,000," he said, adding that while the originating state is expected to test migrants for coronavirus before sending them out, "we don't really know how dependable that is". "As we saw in the case of Nanded pilgrims, when the Maharashtra government failed to do the necessary testing. That is true even for NRIs coming from various countries," the CM said.
He said the state has to make extensive arrangements for quarantining and testing all of the returnees, putting a huge pressure on limited resources. The chief minister attributed the recent surge in cases to large number of people coming from outside.
"We had the original spike when NRIs came initially, in February-March, and the second wave came with the Tablighi Jamaat. "Things were settling down when we again saw an increase in cases due to those returning from Nanded and Rajasthan, including pilgrims, migrants and students.
"And now we are staring at another huge spike with all those NRIs and Punjabi migrants from other states coming back to our state," he said. Punjab has reported nearly 2,000 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths.