Sonia Gandhi wants clarity on exit strategy, criteria to extend lockdown

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday questioned the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government’s criteria to extend the lockdown and the exit strategy.

Gandhi’s criticism of the government came after she held a virtual meeting with chief minsters of Congress-ruled states who echoed her concerns.

During the meeting, senior Congress leaders and chief ministers also highlighted the need for more financial assistance to handle the socioeconomic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Many chief minister have, over the last one month, flagged the need for more specific economic packages for states to tackle distress faced by farmers, micro, small and medium enterprises, migrants and daily-wage labourers, among others.

The chief spokesperson of the Congress, Randeep Singh Surjewala, quoted Gandhi and said on Twitter: “After 17 May, what? and after 17 May, how?…what criteria is union government using to judge how long the lockdown is to continue.”

The meeting was attended by Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, and Puducherry chief minister V. Narayansamy. The CMs had also written to the Union government urging it to provide financial aid, clear GST dues to states and announce special relief packages.

“All states were unanimous in pointing out that the Union government is pushing them towards fiscal distress by not announcing and allocating resources to fight covid-19, as also the economic crisis that is looming large in India. States and the people also want to know what after lockdown 3.0, and what are the objectives to be achieved by 17 May,” Surjewala told reporters after the meeting.

The chief minister said they were taking care of the travel expenses of migrant labourers going home and have asked the railways for special trains. Gehlot pointed out that the Centre was yet to announce an economic package though states such as Rajasthan had seen a huge fall in revenue.

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