A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown, senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said it is the beginning of a new battle in which the people are the foot soldiers and the PM is the 'commander'. He termed the PM's nationwide 21-day lockdown announcement a "watershed moment" in the country's fight against COVID-19.
"We should put behind us the debates that took place before March 24 and look upon the nationwide lockdown as the beginning of a new battle in which the people are the foot soldiers and the PM is the Commander. We owe a duty to extend our total support to the Prime Minister and the Central and State governments," Chidambaram said in a two- page statement on Wednesday.
PM Modi on Tuesday announced a complete lockdown of the entire country for 21 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has affected over 600 people and taken life of at least ten people in India.
Chidambaram said that the government must think and plan not only for the next 21 days but for some weeks beyond the lockdown. He suggested a 10-point plan which intended to put cash and food in the hands of people.
- The senior Congress leader called for extension of deadlines for payment of any kind of tax till 30 June 2020. In the interim, banks can be instructed to lend to panchayats, municipalities and corporations against the security of the tax receivables, he said.
- He said the government should instruct banks to extend the date for any kind of EMI payments till 30 June 2020.
- Chidambaram also recommended cutting GST rates by 5 per cent on all wage goods, essential goods and services, and all goods of mass consumption for the period 1 April to 30 June.
- For farmers, he urged the government to double the amount paid/payable under PM-KISAN to Rs 12,000 and transfer the additional amount immediately to the bank account of each beneficiary.
- Chidambaram suggested fund transfers in two instalments of Rs 6,000 each to bank accounts of tenant farmers.
- For registered MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) workers, he recommended a fund transfer of Rs 3,000 into the bank account of each beneficiary.
- For the urban poor, he urged the government to transfer a sum of Rs 6,000 through Jan Dhan account.
- Chidambaram recommended giving 10 kg of rice or wheat free to every ration card holder, as a one-time measure over the next 21 days. He also suggested home delivery of the same.
- He suggested that the government should ask all registered employers (registered under any law) to maintain current levels of employment and wages. Government should promise to reimburse employers who do so within 30 days of payment, Chidambaram said.
- "Open a register in every ward or block and invite persons who have not received payment under any of the categories listed above to register their name, address and Aadhaar. Street people and destitutes will fall under this category. After minimal verification, open a bank account in each name [if there is not already one], seed it with Aadhaar and transfer Rs. 3,000 into each bank account," he said.
By Chitranjan Kumar