Expressing disappointment at the Centre’s failure to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said immediate intervention in the unorganised labour sector should have been a top priority in the fiscal relief package, the first tranche of which was announced by Union Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman on Wednesday.
It was unfortunate that the Finance Minister had not deemed it fit to balance the needs of the MSMEs, NBFCs and the housing sector with the urgent requirements of the lakhs of migrant labourers facing unprecedented problems due to the current crisis, said the Chief Minister, in his first reaction to Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements of Wednesday.
Citing the Prime Minister’s emphasis on securing `jaan’ with `jahan’, Captain Amarinder said the first set of announcements from the Finance Minister showed no intent at protecting lives, without which there could, in fact, be no livelihood.
“The MSMEs, the housing sector, etc have to first survive, and then take the leap to the revival stage. And how will they survive without their workers, who have left them in hordes and seem in no mood to return any time soon?” asked the Chief Minister in a statement, urging the Central government to take note of the woes of the labourers, especially in the unorganised sector, to address the immediate challenges for the national economy.
While the implications and impact of the reliefs announced by the Union Finance Minister would need more analysis, the Chief Minister said on the face of it, the MSMEs had not received the much-needed bailout package. Instead, they were being offered loans, which will only end up plunging them into a deeper debt crisis.
Even the MSMEs working in the critical health sector have not received any special incentives to give them the impetus that they need right now to support the Covid battle, Captain Amarinder pointed out, lamenting the absence of any serious thought in prioritising the nation’s needs at this critical juncture.
Pointing out that Punjab had 2.52 lakh industries, of which only about 1,000 were large, the Chief Minister said given the magnitude of the problem, the Centre would need to come out with a massive package for the MSMEs to resume operations. And only when the MSMEs start opening up will the migrant labour return to the state, he added.
Even the relief for the power sector was inadequate, said the Chief Minister, pointing out that while PFCs and RECs have been directed to extend loans to the state-run power utilities against their receivables, there has been no directive to keep the interest rate on a par with the market, which is traditionally lower than what these entities charge.
As for the salaried middle-class, the deferment in IT deadline and reduction in TDS could hardly be termed a relief measure, he noted.
“And how can refunding the taxpayers’ own money of the previous fiscal be deemed a relief measure is beyond understanding,” Captain Amarinder quipped.
The announcements made on Wednesday, said the Chief Minister, appeared to be aimed at reviving the economy in the long term, and not focused on giving the urgent financial support needed by the critical sectors of the economy.
The CM hoped the next set of announcements from the Finance Minister would see concrete announcements for the unorganised labour sector, in particular, and also address the grave unemployment crisis staring at the country.
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