Chandigarh, April 6, 2020 (Yes Punjab News)
Underlining the urgency of the situation triggered by the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his urgent intervention for immediate release of the state’s GST arrears and resolution of other pending issues to enable effective management of the current crisis.
A similar letter was also sent to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, with the Chief Minister stressing that “early action on these issues will help in effective management of COVID-19 as also to provide requisite relief to all those who are adversely affected by this crisis.”
“The release of our GST arrears is of paramount importance as we are facing serious financial constraints,” the Chief Minister wrote, drawing the Government of India’s urgent attention to the pending issues and seeking necessary follow-up action from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.
The COVID-19 crisis presents a challenge of great magnitude, which has ramifications across all strata of people and all sectors of the economy, though the poor will be the worst affected, Captain Amarinder noted, emphasising the importance of the country fighting the challenged unitedly under Modi’s leadership.
The Chief Minister pointed out that the challenges were naturally more operational in the states, which needed to contain and prevent the spread of the disease at one level, and to work to mitigate the economic hardship and suffering caused by the outbreak of the disease on the other.
His government, said Captain Amarinder, had been working closely with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and the Union Cabinet Secretary had been in regular contact with the Chief Secretary and senior officials of the State Government to review day-to-day issues and measures being taken to manage and contain COVID-19.
“You would appreciate that huge resources are required to fight this disease, especially as the lockdown, in one form or another, may well turn out to be longer than is currently being anticipated,” said the Chief Minister, adding that he had also spoken to the Union Finance Minister as well as written to her articulating Punjab’s requirements and giving certain suggestions at the national level.
In a detailed list of issues pending with the Centre for urgent attention, sent along with the letter, the Chief Minister pointed out that the state government’s GST arrears, pending since July 2017, amounted to Rs 6752.83 crore. He urged immediate action by the Union Finance Ministry for the release of the arrears, besides seeking increase in borrowing limit under FRBM Act from 3 to 4%, deferment of Industrial Loans by Commercial Banks, and deferment of agricultural/ crop loans by Commercial Banks and waiver of 3 months interest thereon.
Referring to other issues that needed to be addressed by the Finance Ministry, the Chief Minister sought permission for utilisation of 14th Finance Commission Grants by ULBs and PRIs for emergency relief, including food and medicines for rural poor, as well as use of 25% flexi funds under CSSs in the battle against COVID-19, along with its enhancement to 50%.
Captain Amarinder also reiterated the state’s demand for Special risk insurance of police personnel & sanitary workers engaged in fight against COVID-19, seeking the Home Ministry’s urgent attention to the matter.
Further, he urged the Ministry of Rural Development, GoI, to pay 15 days’ Unemployment Allowance per month for 3 months under MGNREGS to mitigate distress of rural poor, and to allow 10 days’ wages under MGNREGS to small and marginal farmers to defray labour costs.
The state wants the Ministries of Agriculture and Food & Consumer Affairs to immediately announce bonus to farmers to incentivise staggered procurement of produce, which was necessary in order to prevent overcrowding at the Mandis, the Chief Minister further pointed out.
Captain Amarinder further reiterated that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs should allow contribution to CM Relief Fund as a fit charge under CSR on the lines of PM Relief Fund.