Nowhere near relief: Sitaram Yechury dissects Centre's COVID package
Yechury called the extensive large scale privatisation as the “loot of India” citing the growing unemployment (by 14 Crores) and addressing the perils of migrant workers who are being subjected to “malnutrition, exhaustion, and (being) forced to travel on foot to reach their homes”.
In a media conference on Facebook, CPI(M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, spoke critically of the COVID “Package” unveiled by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the course of five days. In his 40 minute live stream, Yechury called out the Centre’s inability to provide relief to the people who have suffered due to the ongoing lockdown.
Yechury called the extensive large scale privatisation “loot of India” citing the growing unemployment (by 14 Crores) and addressing the perils of migrant workers who are being subjected to “malnutrition, exhaustion, and (being) forced to travel on foot to reach their homes”.
Yechury expressed his discontent with the Centre’s ignorance to what he says should have been the main concerns of the recent financial roll out. He said that the government should have focused more on testing, hospital beds, and increasing the central expenditure on health “Our health workers are not properly equipped. These things should have been considered in these 5 days of the announcement,” he said.
Yechury further added that at least 3% of GDP on health should be allotted in order to fight the pandemic.
He further talked about the agricultural distress amid the lockdown. “Rabi crops have been harvested. The question of its procurement and setting prices is not taking place” he said. Mentioning the downfall of infrastructure, he added, “The package does not address the immediate problems across all sectors”.
The CPI(M) General Secretary warned against the privatisation of every PSU and said that would mean crores of people working in these PSUs are at risk of losing their jobs. “Makes no economic sense,” he added
He also said that giving loans is not the answer, “What we need is government expenditure”. And said that the current budget of Rs 30,42,230 Crores should be spent wisely. "How much are we spending? Are we going beyond what we budgeted? Only then can we reach an actual stimulus” he said.
In the online conference, Yechury also condemned the Center's lack of respect for the federal structure of the Constitution. He said the centralisation of authority and the unilateral decision regarding the lockdown with just a few hours notice was “totalitarian” and transferred the burden on to the states. He said that the state borrowing should be increased from 3% to 5% and the RBI must take steps.
In a jibe at the Union’s Atmanirbhar Abhiyan, he said, “Self-reliance is one of the foundations of our Constitution. If we want to be self-reliant, we must understand the problem of the Indian economy is the decreasing demand and the decreasing purchasing power in the hands of the people”.
Roadmap to relief
Sitharam Yechury restated his Party’s demands for immediate relief in the video conference. These include:
- Give Rs 7500 to the families outside the income tax bracket for the next 3 months.
- Free ration to the poor for the next 6 months
- Free transportation for the migrant workers returning home
Reiterating the need for large scale investments, he said, “CPI(M) will fight for the immediate demands”.
Illusion or Cure?
In a Q&A session, Yechury calls out the “ greater economic inequality” created by the recent relief plans. He explained how the reservations of the SCs, ST, PWD's etc will be adversely affected by privatisation and added “it is an illusion that the lockdown is the cure to COVID. It only buys you time to prepare”. Blaming the Centre for “creating a totalitarian, surveillance state” without the intervention of the established federal system he said “this is the duplicity of the Modi government. All parties should have been consulted”. He further added, “agitation and protests will continue to grow”.