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Coronavirus package | Talk of space travel a cruel joke amid migrant workers’ crisis, says Congress

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. File

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. File  

The Congress on Saturday asked if opening up defence and aerospace to foreign companies is the Narendra Modi government’s idea of Atmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India.

Also read: Nirmala Sitharaman announces new law for contract farming in third tranche of economic stimulus package

It is a “cruel joke” to talk about space exploration ventures when millions of migrant workers are trying to reach their native places on foot, the party said in response to the fourth tranche of announcements made by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“My question to PM Shri @NarendraModi is: whether opening up of defence, Airspace and Aerospace to foreign companies will make a Aatm Nirbhar Bharat? Let there be a national debate,” Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said on Twitter.

Mr. Sharma said the government cannot use the coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic to bypass Parliament and announce a “grand clearance sale of national assets”.

Also read: Second tranche of economic package to benefit migrant workers, small farmers: Nirmala Sitharaman

“Taking sensitive and strategic policy decisions that have a direct bearing on national security and self reliance without a broader national consensus raises fundamental questions. Does the govt. have a mandate to take arbitrary decisions that will have far reaching implications?” he asked.

Addressing a joint online press conference, Congress spokesperson, Professor Gourav Vallabh and Praveen Chakravarty, the Data Analytics and Technology wing chief said: “We have few questions for Narendra Modi ji after today’s announcement. Has any migrant worker got a single paisa as relief? Has any farmer got any benefit in any form? Is there anything specific for our seven crore shop keepers? Is there anything specific for the Middle Income taxpayers who have lost their jobs during this pandemic?” asked Prof. Vallabh.

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“We were bewildered and saddened after hearing the Finance Minister today. When the nation is watching millions of our fellow Indians struggling and walking hundreds of kilometres to their home States without food, water, footwear and transport, there was not a single word or help offered to them by the Finance Minister today. They want to go to their States and she has announced plans for Space,” added Mr Chakravarty.

In a series of tweets, former Union minister Jairam Ramesh called Saturday announcements as 'bizzare'.

“When migrants can't reach home safely, Finance Minister is talking of opening up planetary exploration and outer space travel to private sector. BIZZARE!” Mr. Ramesh said.

“Tomorrow is the final press conference of FM. Hope at least in that she will tell us how much funds will be given to States in the next 6 months to deal with the economic & social crisis arising from #COVID19. States are being denied their legitimate dues & this is hurting India,” he added.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown | 25 migrant workers die in Uttar Pradesh road accident

Senior leader Ahmed Patel said the “the joke is on the nation” when it talks about space journeys while “the poor are on streets, starving and in pain”.

Separately, CPI General Secretary D. Raja slammed the government’s announcements.

“Today, the Finance Minister announced a number of structural reforms. Having failed to address the current crisis caused by COVID-19, this government is making all efforts to strengthen neo-liberal economic structure that is privatisation and corporatization. And that is disastrous for the country,” Mr. Raja said.

‘No fiscal measure, ZILCH’

In a terse reaction to the Finance Minister's announcements, former Union Finance Minister P. Chidamabaram tweeted: "My one line comment on FM’s fourth tranche: No fiscal measure, ZILCH."

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 12:36:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-lockdown-talk-of-space-travel-a-cruel-joke-amid-migrant-workers-crisis-congress/article31603333.ece

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