The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The people of the country who implemented the three week long lockdown ending today were looking forward to concrete measures that the government will undertake to resolve the problems that arose during these three weeks and provide the much needed relief for a large number of our poor, marginalised and migrant labour.
The Prime Minister listed seven tasks that the people should implement during the extended lockdown. However, he did not spell out concretely what the government will do.
The experience of the three week lockdown has shown the large scale spread of hunger and inadequate shelter for a significant section of our people. It is imperative that the government must immediately implement a Rs. 7500 ex-gratia cash transfer to all non-Income Tax paying families and resort to universal distribution of free foodgrains to all needy people. The Central Government must ensure that no starvation deaths occur.
The financial package of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore announced so far is very meagre. It amounts to less than 1 per cent of the country’s GDP. Many countries in the world have announced substantially higher financial packages to meet the consequences of this pandemic. India should raise this to at least 5 per cent of its GDP. Even the cash transfers to various sections announced by the FM have not materialised.
The states are in the frontline of the battle against the Covid pandemic. They need to be financially assisted. Central funds should be liberally distributed among the states so that proper facilities can be provided in the relief camps and food for crores of people staying there.The limit for borrowings by the states must be enhanced.
The PM has appealed that no worker should be retrenched. But mere appeals are not sufficient as there are reports of large scale job loses across the board. Appropriate financial assistance must be provided to ensure a moratorium on job loss and wage cut for three months.
This is the harvesting season. The government must ensure compulsory procurement on the declared C2+50% support price. The report of no work under MNREGA are disturbing. All those registered must be paid their wages irrespective of work.
The lockdown period should have been utilised for conducting large scale testing to identify the clusters where the pandemic is spreading in order to isolate and contain. Testing, however, remains at a very low level, one of the lowest in the world.
It is a matter of grave concern that a large number of doctors and health workers are getting exposed to the pandemic because of severe shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These have not been substantially augmented during these three weeks. Both testing and PPE provisions must be undertaken on a war footing.
It is most unfortunate that the Prime Minister did not decry some attempts that seek to sharpen social and communal polarisation. The government must ensure that such disruptive efforts do not occur. We can only win this battle against Covid-19 with complete unity amongst our people.
The Prime Minister said that the government will review the situation on April 20 and then take measures for some relaxation. Arrangements must be made to transport the migrant workers back to their homes.