Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday sought a comprehensive economic package from the Centre to mitigate the hardship resulting from COVID-19 to the most vulnerable people and establishments across sectors, besides the poor daily wage workers, in the state.
The chief minister has submitted a detailed memorandum in this regard to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, requesting economic support from the Centre to business enterprises, MSMEs, as well as organised and unorganised labour in the state, according to an official spokesperson.
"Based on a quick assessment of the situation, the chief minister has sought immediate extension of the financial year from March 31 to April 30, for the worst-hit MSME and tourism and hospitality sectors, along with major interventions in healthcare and pharma sectors," the spokesperson said in a statement here.
"He has also suggested that food grain entitlement under the National Food Security Act, 2013 may be doubled from 5 kg per person per month to 10 kg per person per month, and it should be distributed immediately," he said.
While seeking suspension of the all ongoing works under the Ministry of Rural Development, Singh has asked for wages for the MNREGA workers, as they are guaranteed wage employment under the MNREG Act, till the national level health emergency lasts or till their 100 days mandate is achieved, whichever is earlier. The total compensation amount required for 15 days for the engaged labour is Rs 53 crore, he said.
In his letter to the prime minister, Singh said while "the Government of Punjab is fully prepared to face the challenges emerging due to COVID-19, it is felt that economic impact of the situation is going to be rather grave". He urged Modi to advise the COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force to consider the state's proposals to address the economic implications of the problem.
The chief minister, in his letter to Sitharaman, said the most vulnerable people and establishments in trade, business, industry, agriculture and the poor daily wage workers would need to be assisted liberally to mitigate some, if not all, of the adverse implications of the spread of coronavirus.
Among the key general proposals of the state government are reduction by 2 per cent in industry interest rates on loans, reduction in Excise and VAT on petroleum, diesel and allied products by at least 25 per cent to bring down the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs 9-10 per litre and a special category fund of Rs 25,000 crore with no collateral to fund the financial needs of the MSMEs.
He has also sought special concession of income tax exemption/ reduction of CGST portion for industrial units situated in border districts for some period, as well as freight subsidy to essential commodities like wheat, flour, milk and rice to meet the current exigency arising out of the Covid-19 crisis.
To prevent black marketing and hoarding of medicines, a Price Monitoring & Research Unit should be constituted to track the violation of prices of essential drugs under Drug Pricing Control Order (DPCO), the chief minister suggested.
The state government has additionally sought lump sum assistance for other stakeholders in tourism and hospitality sector, such as taxi drivers, freelance tour guides, unregistered tour operators, dhaba walas, restaurant, rehriwala, who have also been severely hit.