NEW DELIH: Welcoming the financial package announced by the Centre to bail out the farm community and poor affected by the 21-day country-wide lock down, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday this was the first step in the right direction in combating the coronavirus pandemic.
“The government’s announcement today of a financial assistance package is the first step in the right direction…India owes a debt to its farmers, daily wage earners, labourers, women & the elderly who are bearing the brunt of the ongoing lockdown,” Gandhi tweeted.
The Wayanad MP had on Wednesday, advised a two-pronged approach to tackling the spread of the virus, one focusing on strengthening the health infrastructure and the other on economy, where he had advocated increasing cash transfers, waiving loans and deferring tax payments, among other things.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, however, was less charitable in his reaction to the government’s bailout package. He referred to the financial package as “inadequate”, highlighting that the government had made no effort to provide succour to the scores of migrant labourers who, having been rendered jobless, were walking back to their native places, many stuck without food or resources.
“The FM’s Covid-19 package is inadequate. It defeats the aim of preventing ‘community-spread.’ There is no time to waste, lives have been uprooted by no planning by Centre before declaring a lockdown despite a two-month warning,” Yechury said.
Trinamool MP Dereck O’brien, on the other hand, said the Centre had taken a leaf out of the relief measures already rolled out by the Bengal government one week ago. He also said the Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government will supplement the Centre’s efforts with their own relief measures.
CPM also said that the financial bailout package contained no substantial benefit for workers. “The 24% of monthly wages into their own Provident Fund (PF) accounts does not give them any extra relief – this is their due, their own savings!”, the party said, advising the government to provide ration kits to all poor to contain hunder and malnutrition, and in particular, to families of children availing the mid-day meal scheme.
In light of the large scale layoff predicted as a result of businesses going under, CPM also sought a government guarantee of payment of wages for the next three months, and a one-time farm loan waiver for farmers. “This is the harvesting season. Produce must be guaranteed to be lifted at the declared minimum support prices at least and farmers helped to harvest safely. This must be a priority,” CPM said in a statement.