The displacement of lakhs of migrants could have been avoided had Prime Minister Narendra Modi first consulted the State governments, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said in an interview to The Hindu .
“Who is to implement the lockdown ? Can the Union government on its own do so. The answer is no. Ultimately, it’s the State government’s job to implement it. Did the Prime Minister talk to any of the State governments before unilaterally announcing it? No,” Mr. Baghel said, speaking over phone from Raipur.
Chhattisgarh has reported seven Covid-19 cases, with no deaths so far. It was one of the first States to announce a lockdown on March 21, four days before Mr. Modi announced a nationwide 21-day lockdown. “We have the Mumbai-Howrah highway cutting across the State and could not have taken a chance,” Mr. Baghel said the citing reason for an early lockdown.
‘Severe economic crisis’
The Union government should have reached out to the industry also and the economic package should have precluded the lockdown. It should have anticipated that once the lockdown was implemented scores of persons would not be able to earn a living and would obviously head out to places where they felt more secure.
“We are staring at a severe economic crisis,” he said.
“All skilled and unskilled labourers have left the factories because of the lockdown. The wheels of all industries have come to a screeching halt. I am no economist, but surely, we will see the economic impact of this lockdown in years to come.” The lockdown, he said, would have a similar impact of pulling down the economy as demonetisation had.
‘Second package needed’
The Chief Minister said that there was a crying need for a second economic package to reach out to those who did not benefit from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements of March 26 such as the landless labourers and workers in the unorganised sector, among others.
In a recent letter to Mr. Modi, Mr. Baghel had suggested that ₹1,000 a month should be transferred to MNREGA and workers in the unorganised sector for the next three months. Instead of the promised ₹500 to women Jan Dhan account holders, Mr. Bhagel suggested that ₹750 must be transferred and the scheme should be extended to men too.
“The only way to avert an economic crisis is to infuse financial liquidity and increase the purchasing power of the end consumer. The Union government will have to move swiftly in this direction,” Mr. Baghel added.