Seeking a major economic infusion to prop up the economy, the Congress party now wants the government to pay a monthly unemployment allowance of Rs. 5,000 for the next three months to the unorganised sector.
A party’s task force under former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in Maharashtra has sought the cash handout for the entire unorganised labour force, including farm labourers, hawkers, small shopkeepers and others. “The country’s 90 per cent working population is in the informal sector. The International Labour Organisation reported this month that 40 crore people will go into deeper poverty because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Chavan.
While the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee had formed the task force to combat the pandemic, the recommendation regarding the unemployment allowance has been made for the entire country. “Maharashtra should lead the way by announcing the unemployment allowance,” added Chavan. In Maharashtra, the Congress is a partner in the coalition government under Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Earlier on Thursday, former Union finance minister P Chidambaram demanded that the Centre should come out with a scheme to protect salaries and wages of those employed by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Maharashtra’s Industries department has already proposed that MSMEs in the state should be reimbursed for two months of staff salaries if they abide by the condition of not laying off staff. “The government should contribute part of the salary to the employees in the micro and small enterprises sector,” the Congress task force recommended.
Chavan said the task force had submitted its first set of recommendations to the state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, who is also the state’s revenue minister. The report will be submitted to Thackeray.
Advocating a graded lifting of the lockdown to ensure that gains of the past month are not squandered, Chavan reiterated Congress’s demand that 10 kg of grains be provided free of cost till September under the public distribution system to marginalised sections who do not possess ration cards. “The Maharashtra government must ensure adequate supply of dals, oil and sugar for the next two months,” the report stated. To cushion the economic damage, Congress’s task force has also recommended waiving off interest of agricultural loans for six months, a waiver of farm electricity charges for six months, and a special package for poultry farms.
On healthcare and medical infrastructure, the panel has demanded that the “government must impose price control on personal protective equipments through uniform pricing policies and request the Centre to waive off GST on PPEs and other protective gear”. It has also demanded ramping up of testing and outlining of a policy for supply of protective gear to private medical professionals and hospitals.
Contending that availability of beds and ambulance for non-COVID patients, especially in rural Maharashtra, was becoming a major issue, Chavan asked the Thackeray government to announced an independent SOP for expectant mothers. “Testing for COVID-19 must be free in all hospitals registered under the Mahatma Phule Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana. The government must also specify SOP for inclusion of private doctors for fight against COVID19,” the report stated.
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