Centre shows no intent at protecting lives: Punjab CM on economic package

Chandigarh [India], May 13 (ANI): Expressing disappointment at the Centre's "failure" to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said the first set of announcements from Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman "showed no intent at protecting lives".

The Chief Minister said that immediate intervention in the unorganised labour sector should have been a top priority in the fiscal relief package, the first tranche of which was announced today by Sitharaman, according to an official statement.

Citing the Prime Minister's emphasis on securing `jaan' with`jahan', Singh said, "The first set of announcements from the Finance Minister showed no intent at protecting lives, without which there could, in fact, be no livelihood."

"It was unfortunate that the Finance Minister had not deemed it fit to balance the needs of the MSMEs, NBFCs and the housing sector with the urgent requirements of the lakhs of migrant labourers facing unprecedented problems due to the current crisis," said the Chief Minister.

"The MSMEs and the housing sector have to first survive, and then take the leap to the revival stage. How will they survive without their workers, who have left them in hordes and seem in no mood to return any time soon?" Singh added.

While the implications and impact of the reliefs announced by the Union Finance Minister would need more analysis, the Chief Minister said that the MSMEs had not received the much-needed bailout package. "Instead, they were being offered loans, which will only end up plunging them into a deeper debt crisis," he stated.

Even the relief for the Power Sector was inadequate, said the Chief Minister, pointing out that while PFCs and RECs have been directed to extend loans to the state-run power utilities against their receivables, there has been no directive to keep the interest rate at par with the market, which is traditionally lower than what these entities charge.

As for the salaried middle-class, the deferment in IT deadline and reduction in TDS could hardly be termed a relief measure, he noted.

"How can refunding the taxpayers' own money of the previous fiscal be deemed a relief measure is beyond understanding," Singh further stated.

"The announcements made today appeared to be aimed at reviving the economy in the long term and not focused on giving the urgent financial support needed by the critical sectors of the economy," Singh said. (ANI)