Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has once again drawn the Centre’s attention to the critical needs of the state in the light of the unprecedented crisis and lockdown, while also urging the Union Home Minister to allow the opening of small shops, businesses and industries in all areas except the containment zones, with full compliance of COVID prevention measures.
In a letter sent to Home Minister Amit Shah, in response to the Centre’s request for written submission of issues faced by the state, the Chief Minister has highlighted the pending issues that need the urgent attention of the Government of India, for reference and follow up.
While nine Chief Ministers had been identified to speak at the Prime Minister’s video conference today, those of other states, including Punjab, had been asked to send a written submission listing pending issues to the central government for consideration/ follow-up action.
Among the various state-related issues pending for the Centre’s attention, Captain Amarinder listed the release of Punjab’s GST arrears of Rs 4386.37 crore, as well as a revenue deficit grant to meet the shortfall in revenue combined with the need for higher expenditure on relief and healthcare to manage and contain COVID-19.
Other pending issues cited by the Chief Minister include a bonus to farmers for staggered purchase of wheat, as well as direct cash assistance to daily industrial and agricultural labour including the migrant labour.
He also reiterated the state’s demand for assistance to MSMEs and Power Generation & Distribution companies by way of interest subvention, deferment of loans by commercial banks and reduction in GST on coal.
These issues were of paramount importance and needed immediate attention, said Captain Amarinder, urging the Home Ministry to “appreciate and ensure an early action on these issues for further effective management of COVID-19 as also to provide requisite relief to all those who are adversely affected by this crisis.’
In a detailed listing of the issues pending with the Government of India, the Chief Minister said a revenue grant for the next three months, with the flexibility to the states in spending as per local conditions, would help them tide over the acute fiscal crisis faced due to revenue shortfall.
He also reiterated his suggestion that the 15th Finance Commission should review its report for the current year as the situation has completely changed due to COVID-19. The 15th Finance Commission should recommend devolution of funds for 5-years beginning from 1.4,2021 (instead of 2020) onwards after factoring in the impact of the pandemic, he added.
Captain Amarinder also urged the Centre to announce special risk insurance of police personnel & sanitary workers engaged in the fight against COVID. He further sought relief to Daily Wage Labour & Industrial Labour, in the form of provision of Universal Basic Income of Rs 6000 per month to industrial and migrant labourers who have lost their jobs/employment due to the pandemic crisis.
Other key demands of the state government include Payment of 15 days Unemployment Allowance per month for 3 months under MGNREGS to mitigate the distress of rural poor; Allowing 10-days’ wages under MGNREGS to small and marginal farmers to defray labour costs, and Allowing utilisation of 14th Finance Commission Grants by ULBs and PRIs for emergency relief including food and medicines for rural poor.
The Chief Minister has also reiterated his demand for allowing allow the use of 25% Flexi funds under CSSs against COVID-19 and to enhance it to 50%, in addition to allowing contribution to CM Relief Fund as a fit charge under CSR on the lines of PM Relief Fund.
The state has also sought Provision of Rs 729 crore for Quick Up-gradation of Health Infrastructure, as well as permission for setting up of Advanced Centre of Virology at New Chandigarh, with land to be provided by the state free of cost.
Other pending issues cited by the Chief Minister include sector-wise relief that the state government has been asking from the Centre to help alleviate the woes of various industries/segments.