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Indian states pitch for more lockdown, ask for funds

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Several states on Saturday pitched for an extension of the 21-day nationwide lockdown, that was to end on 14 April, during their video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to government officials.
While chief ministers of Kerala, West Bengal, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Delhi, and governor of Jammu and Kashmir made a case for the extension of lockdown, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy suggested a partial lockdown.

States and the union government have to make a crucial decision over the issue of lives versus livelihood during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
States also sought more resources to deal with the health and the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and pitched for leveraging Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to counter the same.

Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren called for increasing the pay and number of work days under MGNREGA. Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao also called for MNREGA to be linked with agriculture for at least two months.
MGNREGA is a demand-driven social security scheme that provides for 100 days of work per rural household with the number of work days allowed to be increased to 150 annually in case of drought, flood or a similar calamity.
K. Chandrashekar Rao and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot also called for quantitative easing or new money supply by the Reserve Bank of India.

While making a case for the quantitative easing to be 5% of the GDP, Rao asked for increasing the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management limit to 6% and deferring the state’ debt service obligations by three to six months.
India had earlier rolled out a ₹1.7 trillion relief package, to limit the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak, which many experts have termed as inadequate.
Soren also called for the state’ share of Goods and Services Tax (GST) to be released immediately and a year’s moratorium on interest. Given the high number of migrants expected to be back in the state after the end of the lockdown, Soren asked for military help for constructing centres to accommodate them.

This comes in the backdrop of India’s economy losing steam over the last few years with growth declining from 8.3% in FY17 to 7% and to 6.1% in the subsequent two years. In the financial year ended March, growth was projected to be 5% but analysts and rating agencies have sharply scaled it down with the most optimistic projections hovering around 4%.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee demanded a national package amounting to around 6% of the country’s gross domestic product to counter the pandemic and its impact and relief for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector.
India is facing a humanitarian crisis with many migrant workers trudging hundreds of miles from the cities to their homes as the lockdown has rendered them jobless. Even as Modi has leveraged his popularity among Indians to enlist them in the battle against the covid-19 pandemic, India, home to a fifth of the world’s population, saw more than 600,000 daily wagers and their families leaving for their villages.

Courtesy – Livemint

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