By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Continuing its attack on the “stimulus package” announced by the center, the main opposition Congress on Sunday said the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government is hoodwinking the people in the name of so-called “economic package” as the measures announced by the the Finance Minister amounted to only 1.6%of India’s GDP, i.e. worth Rs 3.22 lakh crore instead of Rs 20 lakh crore package as claimed by the Prime Minister. Congress said FM’s today’s announcement lacks any formula to improve the situation and bring the Indian economy back on track.
Reacting to FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s fifth tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by P M last Tuesday, senior Congress leader and spokesperson Anand Sharma said these measures only reflects the government’s non-serious in dealing the economic situation after the lockdown exit.
Addressing the media via video conferencing today, Sharma, a former Union Minister said the PM must “walk the talk” and announce the measures required by giving money in the hands of the poor and small and medium enterprises to help reboot the economy.
He underlined that there was a difference between providing stimulus to the economy and merely giving loans and credit to people.
Challenging the FM for a debate on the package while raising questions about the announcements made by the Prime Minister, he said the package is only Rs 3.22 lakh not Rs 20 lakh as claimed by the PM .
“The government’s economic package is only of ₹3.22 lakh crore and is only 1.6 per cent of India’s GDP and is not worth ₹20 lakh crore as announced by the Prime Minister,” Sharma said while addressing a press conference through video conferencing.
“I am questioning the Finance Minister, disputing the announcement of Prime Minister and challenging the government to disprove me on the numbers given by me and am ready for a debate with the finance minister,” he said.
Earlier, the Centre decided to allocate an additional ₹ 40,000 crore under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. In the Union Budget 2020-21, the government had allocated Rs 61,500 crore for MGNREGA, and the ₹ 40,000 crore allocation will be over and above this budget estimate (BE), FM Sitharaman said while speaking to the media here on Sunday. Ironically Modi had once called MGNREGA ‘a monument of UPA’s failure’. It seems that is what is coming to the rescue of his government again and again.
The decision comes as the Coronavirus pandemic spreads and the nationwide lockdown has wiped out livelihoods of several poor people, sending scores of migrant workers on long walks to their villages from the urban areas.
Though said that the additional allocation will help generate nearly 300 person days of employment, how much of that becomes reality remains to be seen. She also announced that no fresh insolvency case will be admitted for the next one year in view of the Coronavirus pandemic. The government had earlier suspended any fresh admission for six months. Further, she announced the government will also set up a special insolvency framework for MSMEs under Section 240 A of the Insolvency of Bankruptcy Code. This has been a long pending demand of the industry.
The threshold for insolvency will also be raised to Rs one crore from the current ₹1 lakh which will be supportive for the MSME sector. Further, the debt occurring due to the Coronavirus pandemic will not be categorised as “default”, she said.
While she tried to explain the break-up of the ₹-20-lakh-crore figure, what can’t be denied is that most of it is loans and some of it already budgeted.
Congress leader also accused the Modi government of not taking opposition parties on board and arbitrary taking decisions while other democracies in the world are taking decisions on the basis of national consensuses with Parliamentary approval in this crisis time.
“We would like to remind the Government of India, irrespective of the lockdown, with a main parliamentary democracy; during the lockdown period the Government does not have any authorization to take an arbitrary decision.”
He said India boasts of the largest democracy but what is happening here everybody knows.
“Other parliaments are meeting. Parliamentary committees are meeting, whether in America, it is the US House Committee, Senate Committee, which is approving all the packages. In UK, in England their parliamentary meetings, the Prime Minister and the Ministers are there and so other shadow organs and all the other members are connected because this is a national emergency situation. What is happening in India? We are the largest democracy. We are taking ordinance route arbitrarily.
He warned that these issues have far reaching implications to India’s national security as the national assets have been assiduously built since independence.