Rahul asks govt to scale up testing rather than ‘lighting lamps’.
The Congress on Saturday said the Union government should empower the State governments by announcing a special economic package of ₹1 lakh crore and release about Rs. 42,000 crore due as compensation for the goods and services tax (GST). It urged the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to offer zero interest loans as the States have been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi asked the government to scale up testing rather than ‘lighting lamps’, while the party criticised the government for not banning export of diagnostic kits until Saturday.
“India is simply not testing enough to fight the #Covid19 virus. Making people clap & shining torches in the sky isn’t going to solve the problem,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted.
#"Testing & Diagnostics are imperative in fight against #COVID2019! Till 19th March & 24th March, Govt permitted export of Masks, Sanitizers & Ventilators. Even more shocking is the fact that Govt permitted export of Diagnostic equipment till date! Who is weakening the fight?" asked Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Twitter with a copy of government notification attached.
The notification of the Commerce Ministry, dated April 4, restricted the so far free export of diagnostic kits.
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In an online media interaction, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate offered a number of suggestions, including building consensus instead of making ‘unilateral announcements’.
“We urge the government yet again to create a national consensus by putting in place a structured consultative process between the the Centre and the States while formulating our strategy to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak and the collateral damage of life and livelihood. A similar consensus must also be arrived at by involving all political parties in key decision-making at this crucial juncture than just unilateral announcements,” the Congress spokesperson said.
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“States don’t have the same instruments to mobilise funds like the Union government even though the real implementation of the measures announced are being done by the State governments. We strongly urge the Central government to announce a special economic package of at least Rs. 1 lakh crore for the States to combat the crisis,” Ms Shrinate said. The money could be divided on the basis of a State’s population.
‘States under pressure’
The State governments were under pressure to set up quarantine and testing facilities, personal protection equipment (PPE), thermal scanners, ventilators, air purifiers and consumables for government hospitals apart providing for the vulnerable sections that have been impacted by the lockdown, she said.
“The Centre has delayed payment of GST compensation to the States. Of the Rs. 48,000 crore pending in GST compensation, only Rs. 6,195 crore has been released so far. Due to the halt in economic activity, States are facing further shortage in GST revenue. Several States, including the BJP ruled ones have approached the Central government seeking clearance of their pending tax dues,” she stated.
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The Congress urged the RBI, which effected an additional 30% increase in Way and Means Advances (WMA) for the State governments, to make it interest free and appealed to the Centre to resolve inter-State supply chain management
“State borders are sealed and trucks loaded with essential commodities have been left stranded. This could lead to huge shortages in the coming days,” Ms Shrinate said.
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