Opposition parties on Saturday tore into the Centre’s fourth set of stimulus measures part of the Rs 20-lakh-crore fiscal and monetary package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The Congress labelled the announcements as “bizarre”, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) called it a “daily litany of jumlas”.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled structural reforms in eight sectors – coal, minerals, defence production, airspace management, airports, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul in aviation, power distribution companies in the Union Territories, space and atomic energy.
Soon after her press conference, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in a series of tweets, criticised the Centre for making “bizarre” announcements which failed to address the economic devastation and the humanitarian crisis resulting from the prolonged shutdown.
“When migrants can’t reach home safely, [the] finance minister is talking of opening up planetary exploration and outer space travel to private sector,” he tweeted. “Bizarre!” This came after the government announced that it will encourage private participation in the space sector.
In a separate tweet, the Congress leader said the measures announced so far have failed to address the “single biggest problem” industries in the country face – the slump in demand. “Tomorrow is the final press conference of the finance minister,” he added. “Hope at least in that she will tell us how much funds will be given to states in the next six months to deal with the economic and social crisis...States are being denied their legitimate dues and this is hurting India.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury accused the Centre of using the pandemic to impose the agenda of the rich and trying to privatise the country’s public assets. “More than 30 Indians have been killed on the roads just today due to [the] gross mismanagement by Modi government,” he tweeted. “Its ministers didn’t have the basic decency and humanity to remember those unfortunate ones, while going on to dish out their daily litany of old jumlas.”
Taking a dig at the Centre’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” or self-reliant campaign, Yechury said that “looting of national assets destroys self reliance”. The Centre on Saturday raised the foreign direct investment limit in defence manufacturing under automatic route from 49% to 74%. Yechury said the move goes against India’s strategic interest. “India’s national security can’t be held hostage to private foreign companies,” he said. “How is this ‘self-reliance’?”
Amit Shah welcomes the announcements
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday complimented Modi and Sitharamam for the “landmark” reform initiatives in defence, aviation, coal and some other sectors, saying these were unprecedented steps to make India self-reliant.
In a series of tweets, Shah said the prime minister’s “mantra of reform, perform and transform” is the key of India’s phenomenal growth in the last six years. “I thank Modi and Sitharaman for today’s landmark decisions which will surely boost our economy and further our efforts towards Atmanirbhar Bharat,” he said.
The home minister said Rs 50,000 crore for infrastructure development in coal sector and introduction of commercial mining is a welcome policy reform which will bring more competition and transparency. Shah said raising the FDI limit in defence manufacturing and imposing a ban pn the import of selected weapons will boost the government’s “Make in India” initiative and reduce the country’s import burden.
Shah also thanked the prime minister for his “futuristic decisions” to push aviation sector. “By easing out restrictions on utilisation of air space, our aviation sector will be benefited by about Rs 1000 crore per year,” he said. “Tax regime for Maintain, Repair and Overhaul of aviation has been rationalised to make India a global hub for aircraft MRO.” The home minister also applauded Modi for encouraging private participation in space activities so that they can become a “co-traveller in India’s space journey”.
On Friday, the government unveiled 11 measures aimed at supporting agriculture and farmers including an impetus on the fisheries sector. While eight of the measures aimed at financial support, three measures called for governance reforms. Sitharaman had on Friday announced Rs 3.16 trillion support for vulnerable sections, including migrant workers, farmers, tribals, street vendors, and the middle class.
On Thursday, Sitharaman announced measures to provide relief to small businesses, taxpayers, shadow banks, power distribution companies, real estate, organised sector employees, and contractors working with the government.