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Crackdown has pushed daily wagers into chaos, Sitaram Yechury writes to PM Modi

A labourer sleeps in front of a closed shop on Bengaluru-Mysuru highway road in Bengaluru on March 24, 2020.

A labourer sleeps in front of a closed shop on Bengaluru-Mysuru highway road in Bengaluru on March 24, 2020.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Tuesday address ‘disappointing’, the CPI(M) chief says the govt. has failed to provide any relief to the poor and the needy

At least 45 crore Indians work on daily wages, with the ongoing lockdown owing to COVID-19 outbreak which has been extended to 21 days, without any concrete assurances from the government, they have been pushed into chaos, CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi following his Tuesday night address.

Mr. Yechury in his letter called the address very disappointing since once again Mr. Modi failed to provide any relief to the poor and the needy. He said that the government had so far not come up with any measure to assist the poor migrants who were most hurt by the lockdown.

Most of them were stranded en route without food or shelter, Mr. Yechury wrote.

Migrant labourers wait outside of the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G.Ramachandran Chennai Central railway station on March 22, 2020, since trains were suspended due to Janata curfew and subsequent lockdown.

Migrant labourers wait outside of the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G.Ramachandran Chennai Central railway station on March 22, 2020, since trains were suspended due to Janata curfew and subsequent lockdown.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

 

“How will they reach safe spaces? How will they survive without money or food and with reports of police harassment too? They are running for safety, helter-skelter, as there appear to be no means of transport being made available to them nor any money being given to them to make basic ends meet,” Mr. Yechury added.

This was the opposite of social distancing that we needed at the moment to battle this pandemic.

‘₹15,000 cr. package too miniscule’

The ₹15,000 crore healthcare package announced by the Prime Minister was too less, Mr. Yechury wrote. Taunting Mr. Modi he said, it was surprising that the government that often talked of $5-trillon economy had only ₹15,000 crore to spare. It amounted to a meagre ₹112 per citizen, he pointed out.

“₹ 7.78 lakh crore bailouts to rich corporates or the ₹1.76 lakh crore of tax break announced for them surely means we can spare more than this for the health of our people who face such a grave danger. Why have you not taxed the super rich to save poor lives?”

In the 2020 Budget, the government announced a cut in health expenditure even when a global pandemic was in sight, Mr. Yechury said chiding the government. He pointed out that All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) got a paltry hike of 0.1 %. The biggest dip in allocation was for the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana — from ₹156 crore to ₹ 29 crore. The allocation to the Ayushman Bharat Yojana remained unchanged though it should have been increased. “Shockingly, the allocation towards schemes dealing with communicable diseases remained unchanged at ₹2,178 crore,” he added.

Criticising the government, Mr. Yechury said that these “criminal cuts” in the health budget made us vulnerable. India also lost the lead time of almost two and a half months to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in other parts of the world without doing much.

“You must give every Indian their due at this difficult time. This would mean that you announce clear steps, both for economic assistance at a time of this difficult lockdown and on the testing, tracing and public health measures we need to undertake right away. Both are important if we are to defeat this pandemic before it is too late,” Mr .Yechury added.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 1:53:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/crackdown-has-pushed-daily-wagers-into-chaos-sitaram-yechury-writes-to-pm-modi/article31160670.ece

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