Chidambaram calls lockdown watershed moment, offers plan for transfer of money

Time to announce partial to total lockdowns in most towns, cities: P Chidambaram

The Congress leader also argued that the Centre should immediately announce a relief for the poor and the vulnerable.

A day after India was placed under an unprecedented 21-day lockdown, former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Wednesday called the Prime Minister's announcement a "watershed moment" in the battle against coronavirus and suggested a 10-point plan to put money in bank accounts of the poor and marginalised workers.

He also demanded a cut in GST rates by 5 per cent on essential goods and services for a three-month period.

In a statement, Chidambaram said, "We should put behind us the debates that took place before March 24 and look upon the nationwide lockdown as the beginning of a new battle in which people are the foot-soldiers and the PM is the Commander. We owe a duty to extend our total support to the Prime Minister and the Central and state governments."

The Congress leader also argued that the Centre should immediately announce a relief for the poor and the vulnerable.

For farmers, Chidambaram asked the government to double the "amount paid/payable" under the Prime Minister's Kisan scheme to Rs 12,000 and transfer the additional amount immediately to bank account of each beneficiary. Tenant farmers, he said, should be brought under the scheme and Rs 12,000 in two installments transferred to their bank accounts.

He asked the government to transfer Rs 3,000 into bank account of each registered MGNREGA worker. For the urban poor, Chidambaram said, "take the Jan Dhan accounts in urban branches of banks and transfer Rs 6,000 into account of each beneficiary. Offer every ration card-holder, through ration shops, 10 kg rice or wheat free as a one-time measure in the next 21 days. Arrange for home delivery."

He said the government should ask all employers registered under any law to "maintain current levels of employment and wages", and guarantee to these employers that "wages will be reimbursed by the government within 30 days of payment".