Centre's relief package inadequate: Cong leader Surjewala

Chandigarh, Mar 26 (PTI) Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala on Thursday said that the Rs 1.75 lakh crore economic package announced by the Centre in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic was inadequate.

The government has announced a package to give relief to vulnerable sections of the society and others, the Congress' chief spokesperson said.

“However, may we respectfully and humbly and not in a sense of criticism say - Is it not too little?,” a statement quoting him said here.

The Congress leader's comments come after the central government unveiled the relief package involving free food grain and cooking gas to the poor for the next three months, one-time doles to women and poor senior citizens, higher wages to workers and measures to boost liquidity of employees, as it looked to contain the impact of unprecedented nationwide lockdown over the deadly COVID-19.

He further said, “'Kisan' (farmer) has now been offered a sum of Rs 2,000 through 'PM Kisan' accounts on 1st April, 2020, but, he is supposed to be paid a sum of Rs 6,000 under the PM Kisan Yojana..,”.

He said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had suggested a payment of Rs 7,500 over and above the Rs 6,000.

With farmers' wheat crop being at harvesting stage, he said 334 lakh hectare of wheat is now ready to be harvested in India.

“Of this, about 130 lakh hectare is in Punjab, 93 lakh hectare in Haryana, 37 lakh hectare in UP, about 68 lakh hectare in Madhya Pradesh and in other states, but, all grain markets are shut.

“Food Corporation of India has not come forward with procurement, no gunny bags are currently available for farmers. How should the farmer now harvest and take his crop to the market, for he cannot wait until the April 14 (when 21-day lockdown ends)?” he asked.

Surjewala said if a farmer was to delay harvesting up to April 15, he stands to lose 40 per cent of the standing crop.

He said the Centre must look into this and ensure that harvesting and procurement are undertaken even during the lockdown.

“Please declare harvesting and procurement operations as part of essential services,” he demanded of the Centre.

“And what about giving relief to those who have taken land on lease and are cultivating the land? Not a single rupee of relief has been given to them. What about farm labourer, who are poor people, largely SC/STs, who help farmers? They are not being given any relief. So, please consider these aspects,” he told the Centre.

Surjewala, former MLA from Kaithal in Haryana, said only Rs 500 per month for 3 months is given in the 'Jan Dhan accounts'.

“Sonia Gandhi as also all social scientists have suggested at least Rs 7,500 as a one time measure so that they can take care of themselves and their families. Rs 500 would be an amount, which will give no benefit to these sections for they will not be able to make both ends meet,” he said.

He said the ration of Rs 5 kg per person that is being given, is insufficient.

“If a person has to eat three meals a day, it would be 500 gms at least. You multiply by 21 days (of lockdown) it becomes 10 or 11 kgs, so at least 11kg of wheat or rice free for these 21 days should be given and then supplement it with additional quantities..,” he sought.

He alleged that in the wake of the coronavirus spread, hand sanitisers and masks were being sold in black market and prices of vegetables including potatoes, onions, tomatoes and all essential commodities were surging.

“Nothing is available in markets. Please ensure that the black marketeers are punished and these goods are available at decent prices. This will only happen when the government declares mandis to be essential services,” he said.

Surjewala also sought a relief for the salaried class and said EMIs of all loans taken by them be deferred upto June 30.

“Similarly, government should waive instalment payments and interests on government loans for government employees. Besides, for medium and small enterprises, the small shopkeepers who have all lost their livelihoods, a sector wise package should be given to them,” he demanded.

He asked the Centre to “reconsider the economic package as also incorporate the suggestions that we are giving to you, not in a bipartisan or political fashion, but, in a spirit of cooperation and unity.” PTI SUN VSD  RAX RAX