Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac on Tuesday castigated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not announcing any additional financial package to help the economy deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, PTI reported.
Earlier in the day, Modi announced the extension of the ongoing nationwide lockdown till May 3 and praised the efforts taken by the state governments in tackling the coronavirus spread. The prime minister did not reveal an economic plan or package for the country despite repeated pleas from chief ministers for urgent measures that could help states tide over the current crisis. He, however, said a detailed guideline on the contours of this extended lockdown will be issued by the government on Wednesday.
“The prime minister, in his address to the nation, praised the states for the effective dealing of the pandemic,” Issac told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram district. “I feel that states just don’t require praise alone, but financial assistance. When we approach banks for loans, the interest rate is 9%. Most of the states have limited the borrowing to Rs 500-1,000 crore and started cutting off salaries or halting other developmental activities.”
Issac said the Narendra Modi government should provide financial assistance to the states by borrowing money from the Reserve Bank of India.
The finance minister said the country has to go in for widespread testing to gauge the spread of the virus. “There is no option other than extending the lockdown,” he tweeted. “But Centre must learn lessons from the past 3 weeks. 1. Without extensive testing lockdown won’t be effective. 2.Without income support compliance will be low. 3. Without additional resources states will be constrained.”
Isaac added that the Centre must learn lessons from the past three weeks. He pointed out that migrant workers across the country will refuse to comply with lockdown norms and start travelling to their native lands unless they are given income support during the period. “The government should transfer at least half of last year’s wages, as advance at least to the accounts of every registered worker,” he said. “It should also increase the work days to 150.”
India has 10,815 coronavirus cases and 353 deaths as of Tuesday evening.
Several other Opposition leaders also criticised the Centre for not instituting any welfare measures for the economically weaker sections, including the lack of a financial package, after his extension of the lockdown. In a series of tweet, Congress leader P Chidambaram expressed disappointment and said it is is obvious that “livelihood for the poor – their survival – is not among the priorities of the government”.
The Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party also criticised the prime minister’s address. Shiv Sena Spokesperson Manisha Kayande said Modi could have announced extension of the lockdown on Wednesday, along with the new guidelines, instead of announcing them separately.