This time there were not many debates or discussions after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a skid of economic relief measures to boost the pandemic-hit economy of the country. These include a Rs 1.1 lakh crore loan guarantee scheme for Covid-affected sectors and an additional Rs 1.5 lakh crore limit enhancement for Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) scheme, expanding the existing limit of Rs 3 lakh crore by 50%. The announcement is one thing and implementation and execution are other things to transform the announcement into reality. Past experiences show that a lot of announcements remain on the national stage for a long time.
Each country has its prime charter which is the (a) the physical labour force by its people and (b) the infrastructure like industry, transport, roads, market etc. to simultaneously keep the economy moving. FM has strengthened option (b). But the problem is the part (a) where we have 53 crore labour and nearly 90 % of it are in the unorganized sector and almost all these are now shattered, left high and dry on roads, in shelters, in railway stations etc and debilitated in their families. There is hardly any money in their hands. They feel humiliated by the urban life and most industries which they have served for so long living in their own small ethnic groups in shoddy houses.
Something is better than nothing, so whatever we get should be adjusted. Thus, the FM should have balanced both. The FM is trying to build “A bridge too far” and “A bridge to nowhere”. Let us say Rs 5000 per person per month for at least one third which says 15 crore people who are really destitute now. At Rs 5000 per month per labourer, it will be Rs 75 thousand crores per month or Rs 2.25 lakh crores for three months (by which time things can settle down) which is a pittance in the Rs 20 lakh crores announced as a relief package in which this cash package is not there. There is still time. This can be accommodated. Unless the present survives, where is the future?
The government is also extending the Atmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana to foot the employer, employee’s share of post-retiral benefits of new hires by private companies. The government will be providing free visas to 5 lakh tourists visiting India. The benefit will be available only once per tourist. The scheme will be applicable till March 31, 2022, or till the first 5 lakh visas are issued. Under the loan guarantee scheme, working capital or personal loans will be provided to more than 11,000 registered tourist guides, travel and tourism stakeholders. Loans will be provided with a 100% guarantee up to Rs 10 lakh for TTS (agency) and Rs 1 lakh for tourist guides licensed at the regional or state level.
Free food grain to poor till November 2021 to take the total cost of Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana to Rs 2.27 lakh crore. Additional Rs 14,775 crores fertilizer subsidy to be provided over and above Rs 85,413 crore budgeted. Rs 33,000 crore for National Export Insurance Account and Rs 88,000 crore for Export Insurance Account, additional Rs 19,041 crore for broadband to each village through BharatNet PPP Model.
Announcing a set of measures for reviving the economy battered by a severe second wave of COVID-19, Finance Minister Sitharaman also announced a Rs 50,000 crore credit guarantee scheme for setting up of medical or health infrastructure by private hospitals in cities other than eight metropolitan cities.
Besides, 7,929 Covid health centres and 9,954 Covid care centres were set up, and oxygen supported beds increased by 7.5 times. There was also an increase in isolation beds and ICU beds by 42-fold and 45-fold, respectively. The Rs 15,000 crores which were used till March 2021 aiming at providing additional infrastructure and facilitating Covid care had a good response and now Rs 23,220 crores is being provided with a primary focus on children, but others also will benefit from it. Explaining the funding mechanism for the health sector, Expenditure Secretary T V Somanathan said the Rs 23,220 crores has been made available to the Ministry of Health immediately.
But to be frank, the stimulus is used to inject money into the economy but the word wrongly spelt by the MoF and PM. So coming to my opinion I am not at all satisfied with the Economic Package announced by Nirmala Sitharaman. Nirmala announced free food grains to the 8 crore migrant labourers for 2 months, please go to the data and check the number of food grains she announced for each household. According to her statements, if a family consists of 5 members a person will be getting 7grams of dal.
WHO or Other organizations are alerting people to be healthy but our fiscal policies are offering 7 grams of food grains to the 8 crore migrant labourers. The interesting fact is these 8 crore people are registered members. Who will be taking responsibility for unregistered migrants? I oppose FM’s decision of restricting food grain supply for 2 months and the quantity she announced.
Already, there are a lot of food grains in the godowns, why can’t the government distribute them through PDS and Fair Price Shops? Anyways we are getting Rabi crops early this year due to the early monsoon, so distributing food grains will give space for procurement and storage of rabi crops.
TCS, TDS cuts are reduced from 12% to 10%. This is a practical joke. If people are doing jobs and getting salaries then you can reduce it to 10%, I mean when Unemployment is at the peak level this kind of measure is useless. The finance minister announced 61,000 crores in the 2020–21 budgets now she added 40,000 crores to MNREGA policy. I will do a simple math here, initial allocation – Rs 61,000 crores, recent allocation – Rs 40,000 crores, total – Rs 1,01,000 crores.
Second part of this editorial will be published tomorrow.