NEW DELHI :
FORMER Union Finance Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram on Wednesday described the lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “watershed moment” in the battle against COVID-19 and called Modi as the commander and the people as “foot soldiers”. In a statement, Chidambaram also suggested a 10-point plan to put money in the bank accounts of the poor and the marginalised, including farmers and labourers, and demanded a cut in GST rates by 5 per cent on all wage goods, essential goods and services, and all goods of mass consumption from April 1 to June 30, 2020.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of a nationwide 21-day lockdown is a watershed moment in the battle against COVID-19. We should put behind us the debates that took place before March 24 and look upon the nationwide lockdown as the beginning of a new battle in which the people are the foot soldiers and the PM is the Commander.”
“We owe a duty to extend our total support to the Prime Minister and the Central and State Governments,” he said. A senior Congress functionary, however, said that this was Chidambaram’s personal view and not that of the party. Chidambaram also urged people to stay home, saying “STAYHOMEINDIA is a great rally cry”. He also called for protection of the current employment and wages, besides putting money into the hands of the poor and the marginalised. Chidambaram called for doubling the amount paid/payable under PM-KISAN to Rs 12,000 and transfer the additional amount immediately to the bank account of each beneficiary.
For tenant farmers, he called for bringing them under PM-KISAN after taking the lists from the State Governments and transfer Rs 12,000 (in two installments) to the bank account of each tenant farmer. He also demanded transferring Rs 3,000 into bank accounts of registered MGNREGA workers. For the urban poor, the former Finance Minister demanded transfer of Rs 6,000 into their Jan Dhan accounts, besides offering 10 kg of rice or wheat absolutely free, as a one-time measure in the next 21 days to every ration card holder. The former Union Minister called for asking all registered employers to maintain current levels of employment and wages.