Gehlot suggests ‘food for work’ plan

Punjab CM seeks relief measures for people, concessions for industry and agriculture

April 11, 2020 11:24 pm | Updated 11:24 pm IST - JAIPUR/CHANDIGARH

Ashok Gehlot.

Ashok Gehlot.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday suggested during a videoconference of Chief Ministers with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the Centre launch a “food for work” programme, on the pattern of a similar initiative taken by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the 2001-02 drought, to help out those whose livelihood was under threat during the nationwide lockdown. He said the Union government had a sufficient stock of foodgrains for such a scheme. During the interaction, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also came up with suggestions for several health and relief measures for the people and special concessions for the industry and agriculture sectors on an urgent basis.

Mr. Gehlot said people like ragpickers, rickshaw and cart pullers, daily wage earners, nomadic workers and destitute persons were unable to earn their livelihood during the present crisis. “This food-for-work programme should be brought in a new form to give relief to such people,” he said.

The Rajasthan government had compensated such vulnerable population by providing a cash amount of ₹2,500 each to more than 31 lakh families which were not covered by any other scheme, said Mr. Gehlot.

Mr. Gehlot reiterated his demand for a grant of ₹1 lakh crore to the States to enable them to deal with the pandemic. “The payment of first instalment should be made based on the population and the subsequent instalments given as per the prescribed formulas of the GST Council or the Inter-State Council,” he said. He asked for an increase in the borrowing limit for the States as well as in the treasury deficit limit to 5% of the GDP.

The Punjab CM underlined the need to increase the number of tests being done and go for rapid testing, at least in the State’s hotspots such as Nawanshahr, Dera Bassi and Mohali.

Capt. Amarinder further requested ₹500 crore for quick upgrade of infrastructure of government hospitals in Punjab. On the relief measures, he urged the Centre to defer recovery and waive interest and penalties on industrial loans for six months. He also asked the Centre to think of some innovative solutions for relief to daily wage workers and industrial labour either through ESIC funds or under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Referring to the harvesting and procurement operations set to begin in Punjab next week, Capt. Amarinder reiterated his demand for bonus to farmers to incentivise staggered procurement of wheat.

He also called for quicker movement of foodgrains lying in FCI godowns in Punjab, along with waiver of three months’ interest on crop loans and deferment of recovery of crop loans by commercial banks.

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