Expressing “serious reservations” with the “nature” of the Rs 20-lakh crore economic package announced by the Centre, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the thrust of the package.
Arguing that the government should not act like a “moneylender”, he said the need of the hour is not to roll out bank credit or loan but putting money directly into the hands of the people, including farmers, migrant workers and those who run small businesses.
The Congress leader said if the government does not do that right now, the result is going to be catastrophic for the economy, and the fallout would be worse that the coronavirus pandemic and will hit the country like a “storm”. He said the government has taken no concrete steps to relieve farmers of their sufferings other than “rehashing old schemes and making some advances against them.”
Instead of concrete financial relief, the Congress leader said, the government has offered the MSME sector loans, “driving them into a debt trap from which many will never exit.” The story, he said, is no different when it comes to small traders, shopkeepers, the salaried middle class, government employees, and pensioners.
Rahul said he firmly believes that the Prime Minister will take his suggestions seriously and will try to implement it.
Talking to journalists from the regional media, Rahul said the government should make efforts to restart both demand and supply. “There should be a component in the package to fire up demand. If the people do not have money in their pockets, how will you create demand?”
The pain of the people can only be understood by leaders who care. Here are a few glimpses of Shri @RahulGandhi interacting with migrant labourers in Delhi.#RahulCaresForIndia pic.twitter.com/wo0ULmpT7L
— Congress (@INCIndia) May 16, 2020
“I don’t want to make a political statement, but I have a serious reservation about the nature of the package that the government has given, and I would like the government to reconsider. It is good that they have taken this step — it is not a bad step — but the most important thing right now is that we put money directly into the hands of our poor people,” he said.
Rahul, Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad, said the government should not worry about fiscal deficit shooting up, or international credit rating agencies downgrading India. “The Government of India should not worry what the foreigners are going to say, what the agencies are going to say. The Government of India should have faith in our small and medium businesses, should have faith in our people, in our farmers, faith in the people who are walking on the streets and immediately give them money — without a single thought.
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“And there is a reason for this. If we don’t not support our small businesses, farmers, migrants, our economy will not start; and if our economy does not start the question of ratings does not start.”
Rahul said: “I am not saying the government should do direct cash transfer permanently. Do it temporarily, for say three to five months.. If we do not, we will have a catastrophic result. What is going to come if we do not do that is going to be much worse that what we have seen; it is going to overshadow the disease of Covid.”
Rahul also asked the government lift the lockdown “intelligently”. “Lockdown not a simple thing,” he said. It is very important that we open the lockdown intelligently and carefully without sacrificing the vulnerable people. We cannot sacrifice our old people, our people who have diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, hyper tension and kidney disease.lockdown is not an on and off switch. It is not an event. It will have to be done intelligently, carefully and smartly.”
In a statement issued later, Rahul said the contours of the package and its true extent are not yet clear to the public and are rather opaque.
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