A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday called the unprecedented step a “watershed moment” in the battle against coronavirus and said it was the “beginning of a new battle in which people are the footsoldiers and the PM is the commander”.
The Congress leader also urged people to extend their support to the Prime Minister and cooperate with the central and state governments. Taking to Twitter, Chidambaram said that #STAYHOMEINDIA is a “great rally cry” but for that people need food and money.
My statement on the current lockdown and how the Government can help make it better. @PMOIndia @narendramodi @nsitharaman @nsitharamanoffc @FinMinIndia #STAYHOMEINDIA pic.twitter.com/0sQJwG0HAD
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) March 25, 2020
Chidambaram also suggested a 10-point plan to put money in the bank accounts of the poor and marginalised, including farmers and labourers, and demanded a cut in GST rates by 5 per cent on essential goods and services, and all goods of mass consumption from April 1 to June 30, 2020.
Here are the points suggested by Chidambaram:
*Farmers: 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.
*Tenant Farmers: Bring tenant farmers under PM-KISAN. Take the lists from the state governments and transfer Rs 6000 + Rs 6000 (in two installments) to the bank account of each tenant farmer.
*Take the lists of registered MGNREGA workers and transfer a sum of Rs 3000 into the bank account of each beneficiary.
*For the urban poor, take the Jan Dhan accounts with the urban branches of the banks and transfer a sum of Rs 6000 into the bank account of each beneficiary.
*Offer to every ration card holder, through the ration shops, 10 kg of rice or wheat absolutely free, as a one-time measure in the next 21 days. Arrange for home delivery.
*Ask all registered employers (registered under any law) to maintain current levels of employment and wages. Guarantee to such employers who do so that the wages of the employees will be reimbursed by the government within 30 days of payment.
In a series of tweets after the PM’s address to the nation, Chidambaram said the right thing to do for every citizen would be to support the decision whatever may be the hardships.
“I am certain the PM understands the urgency of announcing a financial package and putting cash in the pockets of the poor, daily workers, agricultural workers, self-employed etc.
Listened carefully to Prime Minister’s address. Left me with a mix of emotions — relief, vindication, frustration, disappointment, worry, fear etc.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) March 24, 2020
“Once the package is announced, there are other pressing sectoral problems that have to be addressed. For example, how are the farmers going to harvest their crop beginning April 1?” he asked.
While speaking to the Indian Express last week, Chidambaram had suggested partial to total lockdown in most towns and cities to combat the spread of coronavirus. “It is necessary to lock down all towns and cities for two to four weeks, we should not hesitate to do so. It is better to be safe than sorry”, he said.
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