New Delhi: Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Wednesday welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's lockdown decision for 21 days in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and suggested 10 measures, including cash transfer in bank accounts of the poor and vulnerable.
In a statement, the former Minister said Modi's announcement of a nationwide 21-day lockdown is a "watershed moment" in the battle against Covid-19 and that "we should put behind the debates that took place before March 24 and look upon as the beginning of a new battle in which people are foot soldier and the Prime Minister is the commander".
"Stay home India is a great rally cry, but to stay at home people will need money and food. We must think and plan not only for the next 21 days but for some weeks beyond the lockdown period," Chidambaram said.
He said the current employment and wages must be protected.
Suggesting 10 measures, he said cash and food should be immediately put in the hands of the poor and the vulnerable.
The Congress leader said, "Double the amount paid to farmers under the PM-KISAN to Rs 12,000 and transfer the additional amount immediately to the bank account of each beneficiary."
He also urged the government to transfer the amount of Rs 12,000 to the tenant farmers in two installments and also transfer a sum of Rs 3,000 in the bank accounts of the MGNREGA beneficiaries.
Chidambaram also appealed to the government to transfer an amount of Rs 6,000 in the urban poor Jan Dhan bank account holders.
"Offer to every ration card holder 10 kg of rice or wheat absolutely free as a one-time measure in the next 21 days and also arrange for home delivery," he said.
The government must ask all the registered employers to maintain current levels of employment and wages.
"Guarantee to such employers who do so that the wages of the employees will be reimbursed by the government within 30 days of payment," Chidambaram said.
The Congress leader also said the government must open a register in every ward or block and invite persons who have not received payment under any of the categories listed to register their names, address and Aaddhar.
"Street people and destitutes will fall under this category and after minimal verification, their bank accounts can be opened and then Rs 3,000 can be transferred to such people," he said.
He also urged the government to extend the deadlines for payment of any kind of tax until June 30 and in the interim, banks can be instructed to lend to panchayats, municipalities and corporations against the security of the tax receivables.
"Instruct banks to extend the date for any kind of EMI payment until June 30 and cut GST rates by five per cent on all wage goods, essential goods and services and all goods of mass consumption from April 1 to June 30".
Chidambaram said these demands are currently for one-time cash transfers and the need for more cash transfers can be assessed depending upon the situation.