Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the Centre should stop acting like a ‘sahukar’ (money lender) for its children, and demanded that cash assistance be given to the poor and vulnerable sections, who are in dire need of money now, than credit.
Interacting with journalists of regional media via video conferencing, Gandhi also warned of an impending economic crisis, and asked the Modi government to at least temporarily, if not permanently, implement Congress-proposed NYAY, minimum income scheme, to give money directly to the marginalised section of society.
“When a child is hurt, his parents do not give him credit, they see his wound…I urge the government, do give loans to people, but not act like a ‘sahukar’ to her children. Mother India should give money directly to her children as they need money now,” he told reporters.
Gandhi said a ‘storm’ was brewing on the economic front that will cause damage and hurt many, and urged the prime minister to reconsider the economic package announced by him and give money directly to the poor and needy like migrants walking on roads, failing which the country will suffer a bigger loss economically than from the novel coronavirus.
Stating that the biggest migration since independence is underway, “triggered by policies divorced from India’s ground realities and ignoring the needs of our most vulnerable” brothers and sisters, who have been left to fend for themselves, he asserted that “yet, till today, the government has not been able to tell us what it plans to do for this huge mass of people, whose livelihoods have been cut off, as a result of the nationwide lockdown”.
He also said it is important to lift the lockdown intelligently without sacrificing the old and vulnerable population to the disease.
“We will have to open the lockdown and we will have to make a transition. It is very important that we open the lockdown intelligently and carefully without sacrificing the vulnerable people. We cannot sacrifice our old people,” he said, adding that protecting them is the primary duty of everybody.
Asserting that India is in a crisis, he said it is heart breaking to see millions of our people walking on the highways with no food, no water.
“I don’t want to make a political statement, but, I have a serious reservation about the nature of the package that the government has given and I would like the government to reconsider. It is good that they have taken this step. It is not a bad step, but, the most important thing right now, is that we put money directly into the hands of our poor people,” he said.
He also said the government should not worry about what the foreign agencies are going to say, but should have faith in our small and medium businesses and in our people, farmers, workers who are walking on the streets and immediately give them money in their pockets, without a single thought.
“If we do not support our small businesses now, our farmers and our migrants now, our economy will not start. If our economy does not start, the question of ratings does not arise. So, I would like to ask the government and, with all respect, I would like to ask the prime minister to think about putting money directly into the bank accounts of our people,” he said.
Gandhi urged the prime minister to at least temporarily, if not permanently, implement an idea like the Nyuntam Aay Yojya (minimum income scheme) by giving money directly in the hands of the poor and vulnerable.
“Because if we do not, we will have a catastrophic result. What is going to come, if we do not do that, it is going to be much worse than what we have seen. It is going to overshadow the disease of COVID,” he said.
He said 52 days have passed since India was put under lockdown, but while the nation is fighting COVID-19, our farmers, migrant labourers, shopkeepers, salaried classes and small and medium industries are facing an unprecedented economic crisis.
Emphasizing on the need for an exhaustive economic package for all sections of society, he said though the prime minister belatedly announced a stimulus package on May 12, 2020, its details are not yet clear to the public and are rather opaque.
The Finance Minister’s daily press conferences on the issue are only adding to the confusion, making India increasingly sceptical and restless, he said.
Gandhi said while farmers are suffering, the government’s apathy can also be seen in how country’s MSMEs that create over 11 crore jobs, are being treated.
Instead of concrete financial relief, the government has offered them loans, driving them into a debt trap from which many will never exit, he said, adding that small traders, shopkeepers, salaried middle class, government employees and pensioners are waiting for concrete steps from the government to help them tide over these difficult times.
The former Congress chief said the party after a consultative process has made some recommendations for the stimulus package and it is still not too late for it to seriously consider them.
These include income support to 13 crore poorest households by transferring Rs 7,500 preferably to each household, besides doubling the days under MGNREGA from the current 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to 200 days, ensuring food security for even the 11 crore people currently outside PDS by providing them with free ration for six months and Rs 10,000 as urgent income support to each of the 8.22 crore PM Kisan Yojana accounts, he said.
He also sought Rs one lakh crore wage protection and multi-crore credit guarantee scheme for 6.25 crore MSMEs apart from giving them interest subsidy on loans for six months.
The government is duty bound to ensure the safe return of all our migrant brothers and sisters to their homes, free of cost and steps must be taken for their protection and well being and to ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect, he also said.