Centre 'failed' to support states amid COVID-19 crisis: Punjab CM

Chandigarh, Jun 5 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday slammed the Centre accusing it of failing to provide any help to states during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Singh said it was the duty of the Centre to come forward in fighting the battle against coronavirus and help states revive their battered economies.

“The government of India has failed to provide any help to the small states in fighting the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the prolonged lockdown,” Singh said here.

Economic revival would require support from the central government, the chief minister said, adding that Punjab was on top of the COVID-19 situation.

Last month, the Punjab government had sought a fiscal stimulus of Rs 51,102 crore from Centre to help the state tide over the financial crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged lockdown.             At the moment, all steps to restart economic activity in Punjab have been taken by the state government, asserted Singh.

Pointing to the conditional increase in borrowing limit of gross state domestic product (GSDP), he said by curtailing the state's rights, the central government had negated the benefit and delayed the financial help that it had extended.

On the initiatives taken by the state government to revive its economy, Singh said nearly Rs 24,000 crore has been pumped into the rural economy as a result of the bumper wheat crop during the just concluded Rabi season.

Talking to media through a video conference, Singh said of the total 2.56 lakh industrial units in the state, all but 20,000 had resumed operations.    However, the industry in Punjab would take some time to run to its optimum level, he said, urging the central government to bail out small and medium industries in this difficult time.           Asked to comment on the recent interaction between Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and industrialist Rajiv Bajaj, the CM said both of them were right in highlighting that the country's GDP and the lives of its people are key issues.

Though the lockdown was necessary to save lives, it was now vital to revive the state's economy, for which the panel of experts led by economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia was preparing a blueprint, he added.

On migrants choosing to stay back in Punjab, the CM pointed out that of the 11.50 lakh migrant workers who wanted to return home, more than 5 lakh have now decided to stay back as the industries have opened in the state.

Several of those who have returned to states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh now want to come back to Punjab as work has resumed here, he said.

On shortage of labour during paddy sowing season, the CM said nearly 30 per cent of paddy had been sown through direct seeding, which is less labour intensive and more cost-effective.

The CM further said that the industry was also taking initiatives such as pay hikes to retain labour.

However, it is the small industry which hires the majority of the migrant workers, that needs immediate support for revival, he added.           The CM said the state government was on top of the situation in its fight against COVID-19, despite reports of possible community spread coming frequently from various cities in recent days.

The problem gets aggravated as people avoid medical checks on coming in contact with infected persons or on showing even the slightest of symptoms, he added.

On the opening of gyms, schools etc., he pointed out that these decisions were in the domain of the Centre and come under the National Disaster Act, which is currently invoked in the country.           In response to a question, Singh assured that the state government would soon clear its dues of the cooperative sugar mills and was also pressurising the private mill owners to pay off their dues to the farmers. PTI CHS VSD RHL