Sonia Seeks Relief Package For Jobless, Small Units

Asserting that 12 crore people have lost their jobs in the first phase of the lockdown, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said that it is imperative for the government to provide them with immediate financial assistance to each family to tide over this crisis and reiterated that the unemployment is likely to increase further as economic activity remains at a standstill.

“Entitlement of food grains under the National Food Security Act has not yet reached the beneficiaries. 11 crore people who are in need of subsidized food grains, remain outside of the Public Distribution System. It should be our commitment to provide 10 kgs of food grains, 1 kg of pulses and half a Kg of sugar to each person of the family every month, in this hour of crisis,” Gandhi at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting today.

“12 crore jobs have been lost in the first phase of the lockdown. Unemployment is likely to increase further as economic activity remains at a standstill. It is imperative to provide at least Rs.7,500 to each family to tide over this crisis. Migrant labourers are still stranded, jobless and desperate to return home. They have been hit the hardest. They must be provided with food security and a financial safety net in order to survive this period of crisis,” she said.

The Congress chief said that a special package should be announced urgently for the survival of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

“MSMEs employ close to 11 crore personnel today. They make up for one third of the GDP. If they are to be protected from economic ruin, it is imperative that a special package be announced urgently for their survival,” she said.

The Congress chief claimed that the Central Government does not appear to have a “clear” idea on how the situation will be managed after May 3, when the ongoing lockdown will end. “A lockdown of the present nature after that date would be even more devastating,” she said.Gandhi said that the Congress has repeatedly urged the Prime Minister that there is “no alternative to testing, trace and quarantine programme.”

“Unfortunately, testing still remains low and testing kits are still in short supply and of poor quality. PPE kits are being provided to our doctors and healthcare workers but the number and quality is poor,” she said.

The Congress chief said that farmers are facing serious difficulties. “The issues of weak and unclear procurement policies and disrupted supply chains need to be addressed without delay. Necessary facilities must be made available to the farmers for the next round of Kharif crops which will begin in the coming 2 months,” she said.

In a veiled attack against the Centre, Gandhi said: “The states and local governments are the frontline of the battle against COVID-19. Funds legitimately owed to our states have been held back.”

She accused the BJP of spreading the “virus of communal prejudice and hatred” amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Let me also share with you something that should worry each and every one us Indians. When we should be tackling the coronavirus unitedly, the BJP continues to spread the virus of communal prejudice and hatred. Grave damage is being done to our social harmony. Our party, we will have to work hard to repair that damage,” she said.

The Congress chief applauded doctors, nurses, paramedics, health workers, sanitation workers and all other essential service providers, NGO and the lakhs of citizens providing relief to the most needy all over India.

Gandhi said that she had written “several times” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after lockdown came into force.

“I offered our constructive cooperation and also made a number of suggestions to alleviate the suffering of both rural and urban families. These suggestions had been formulated on the basis of feedback we have been receiving from different sources, including our Chief Ministers. Unfortunately, they have been acted upon only partially and in a miserly way. The compassion, large-heartedness and alacrity that should be forthcoming from the Central Government is conspicuous by its absence,” she said.

The Congress leader asserted that the focus must continue to be on successfully engaging with health, food security and livelihood issues.

“The lockdown continues and all sections of our society continue to face acute hardship and distress–particularly our kisans and khet mazdoors, migrant labour, construction workers and workers in the unorganized sector. Trade, commerce and industry have come to a virtual halt and crores of livelihoods have been destroyed,” she said.


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