The Congress on Thursday said the government’s economic package has so far fallen way short of what the prime minister had promised to the nation and dubbed it as a “jumla package” and an “empty package”.
Senior spokesperson of the party Anand Sharma said the country believed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was serious when he made the “dramatic” announcement of giving 10 per cent of the GDP as a package to revive the economy and support workers and migrant labourers.
“The finance minister’s announcement dashed all hopes,” he said.
“So far, the package is merely two per cent of the GDP, which is way short of what the prime minister had promised to the nation and deeply disappointing,” Sharma added.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements were nothing but a “jumla package”.
He asked if the government would do anything to help those affected by the lockdown and coronavirus, as it only talks big and does nothing concrete.
Party spokesperson Manish Tewari said the government had nothing to offer to ensure a safe return of the migrants walking back to their native places and merely given Rs 3,500 crore out of its Rs 20-lakh crore economic stimulus package for them.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said, “It is not an economic package. It is an empty package wrapped with speeches since the last three days.”
He said the migrants and poor people had great expectations after the prime minister’s address to the nation, but sadly, the government has turned a blind eye to their problems and is back to headline management.
“Government should be serious about how much money it wants to transfer into hands of citizens. Now it has been trapped by this number of Rs 20 lakh crore. Rather than struggling to reach this target by creative accounting, better to work with a reasonable but genuine figure,” Patel wrote on Twitter.
Tewari pointed out that the finance minister articulated the second tranche of the bailout or economic package that this government has conceptualised.
“It is unfortunate that the entire press conference (of Sitharaman) was a classic display of arrogance, ignorance and insensitivity,” he said, addressing reporters via a video link.
“We expected that the finance minister would come out with what the government is doing to ferry the migrants, who are walking on the roads, back to their homes safely. But nothing like that happened,” Tewari said.
He lamented that either the government is away from reality or does not want to see it.
“What are you doing to remove the pain of migrants?” he asked, wondering why the government is not using buses to transport them.
Another Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said MGNREGA wages have been revised annually for a decade now.
“Today’s FM announcement no big deal. Nothing on what’s urgently needed: Provide wages for month of April. Increase no. of MGNREGA days to 200. Ironic that those who ridiculed MGNREGA now rely on it,” he wrote on Twitter.
Sharma said too little money has been given to support crores of workers who lost wages and incomes. He said the migrant labourers have suffered the most but got very little and are forced to trudge back hungry and starving to distant villages and pay for the train fare.
“Shockingly, no emergency transfer to the states,” the former Union minister said, noting that the MGNREGA wage increase of Rs 20 is a cruel joke.
“Do PM and FM understand there is a fundamental difference between liquidity measures, Farmer loans and credit to Industry, ongoing welfare or food security programmes & MNREGA already budgeted for from Economic package and resource support,” he wrote on Twitter.
Tewari said Sitharaman’s announcements have yet again disappointed those who have been most adversely impacted by COVID-19 and its collateral economic damage.
He said the total outgo in the second tranche of the fiscal stimulus package is merely Rs 5,000 crore (as quantified by the FM) and only Rs 3,500 crore have been provisioned for ration to be provided to migrant workers without cards and the Rs 1,500-crore interest subsidy for Shishu MUDRA loans.
“Do the PM or FM not see horrifying visuals of migrants walking back home, pregnant women, elderly, children. Over 90 migrant workers have died on their way home, who is responsible for these deaths,” Tewari said in a tweet.
He said the sum total of the announcements is that the migrant workers walking along the highways can continue to do so at their own risk.
“The Government of India doesn’t care if they meet with accidents and die. There was not a single word on ramping up safe transport of these desperate workers, even as she accepted that they are walking home,” Tewari said, adding that this was in contrast to what the Centre told the Supreme Court about no migrants on the road.
He said the free foodgrains supply for the migrants without ration cards is welcome for the next two months, but it is grossly short of the National Food
Security Act’s mandated 66-per cent coverage of the country’s population.
Another Congress leader Supriya Shrinate said workers are in trouble now, but there is no immediate relief for them.
“This government believes economic help is giving out loans that have to eventually be repaid. Fiscal stimulus by its very definition means offering help from government exchequer and not a liability to be repaid later,” she said. PTI SKC RC
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