COVID-19: Congress seeks cash transfers

Sonia calls for broad-based social protection measures to tide over crisis

March 21, 2020 11:54 pm | Updated 11:54 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. File

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. File

The government needs to outline measures to help people whose livelihoods have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Opposition parties said on Saturday.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a statement, said COVID-19, which followed demonetisation and the slowing down of the economy, had been a huge setback to millions of daily wage earners, MGNREGA workers, ad hoc and temporary workers, labourers, farmers and those in the unorganised sector.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

“The government has to put in place broad-based social protection measures, including direct cash financial help to these sections,” she said. Calling for a comprehensive sector-wise relief package, Ms. Gandhi said: “The Congress is demanding necessary tax breaks, interest subvention and deferment of liabilities. For the salaried class, the government and the RBI must consider deferment of EMIs,”

“As the entire nation stands united in our joint fight, I would urge the Prime Minister and the government to take action on some key issues. There is uncertainty and lack of information about the number of beds, isolation chambers, ventilators, medical supplies and dedicated medical teams. This information, including location of each hospital and their emergency phone line numbers, should be publicly shared. A dedicated portal for sharing these and all other necessary information is one way forward. Special budgetary allocation is an equally important factor,” Ms. Gandhi said.

Former party president Rahul Gandhi said the virus was a strong assault on our already fragile economy. “Small, medium businessmen and daily wage workers are the worst affected. Clapping won’t help them!” he tweeted. Asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi government to act quickly, Mr. Gandhi said the country needs a wholesome financial package with cash hand outs, tax breaks and delayed debt repayment plans.

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NCP president Sharad Pawar too has demanded that the government push back deadlines to file both GST and income-tax returns from the last week of March.

In a series of tweets tagging Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman , he said, “Keeping the COVID-19 pandemic in mind and the current lockdown due to the same, I earnestly urge @PMOIndia and @IncomeTaxIndia, @GST_Council to consider extending the dates of filing returns by at least one month without levying any interest and penalty.

The Opposition had expressed disappointment with Mr. Modi’s address to the nation on Thursday.

The CPI(M) had sought ₹5,000 to every Jan Dhan account holder and BPL beneficiary to tide over the crisis. The Kerala government had announced ₹20,000 crore special package that includes measures like giving two months in advance the welfare pensions and a cash transfer of ₹1,000 to the families not eligible for welfare pensions.

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