News

Centre has no solutions to economic crisis, no empathy for poor, says Sonia Gandhi

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 22, 2020 Published on May 22, 2020

A file photo of Congress president Sonia Gandhi   -  PTI

The Congress president said that the defining image of the pandemic has been the lakhs of migrant workers, many with children, walking hundreds of kilometres, without money, food or medicines, desperate to reach their home States.

At a meeting of 22 Opposition parties in New Delhi on Friday, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi accused the Centre of not having a strategy to exit from the lockdown.

She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of a grand ₹20-lakh-crore package has turned out to be a “cruel joke” on the country. She reiterated the demand to transfer cash to the poor, distribute free foodgrains to all families, arranging buses and trains for the migrant workers to go back home.

 

She said the country was facing an economic crisis even before the first coronavirus cases were identified. “Demonetisation and a hasty and flawed GST were amongst its main causes. The economic downturn began in 2017-18. Seven quarters of declining GDP growth was no ordinary event; it was unprecedented. Yet, the government carried on with its misguided policies and incompetent governance,” she said.

Economy down, cases up

“Even when the lockdown was imposed on March 24, with barely four hours’ notice, all of us supported the decision despite its suddenness and the obvious unpreparedness of the government. The initial optimism of the Prime Minister that the war against the virus would conclude in 21 days has turned out to be misplaced,” the UPA chairperson said.

She said the government was uncertain about the criteria for lockdown, nor does it have an exit strategy. “Successive lockdowns have yielded diminishing returns. The government also stumbled badly on the testing strategy and the import of test kits. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to take its toll,” she added.

 

The economy has been gravely crippled, she said. “Every economist of repute had advised an immediate massive fiscal stimulus. The Prime Minister’s announcement on May 12 of a grand ₹20-lakh-crore package — and the Finance Minister spelling out its details over the next five days, have turned out to be a cruel joke on the country,” she added.

The Raebareli MP said the defining image of the pandemic has been the lakhs of migrant workers, many with children, walking hundreds of kilometres, without money, food or medicines, desperate to reach their homes.

Catastrophic consequences

“Apart from the migrant workers, those who have been cruelly ignored include the 13 crore families in the bottom half of the population, namely — the tenant farmers and landless agricultural workers; the laid-off or retrenched workers and employees; the shopkeepers and the self-employed; the 5.8 crore out of the 6.3 crore MSMEs; and organised industries, including the large businesses, that drive our country’s growth,” she added.

She said the Opposition’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears. “Far from offering succour and support, the government has embarked on a wild adventure of so-called reforms including a grand clearance sale of PSUs and repeal of labour laws. There is not even a pretence of consultation with stakeholders or debate in Parliament. We deplore these unilateral moves. A number of renowned economists are predicting that 2020-21 will end with negative growth of up to minus 5 per cent. The consequences will be catastrophic,” she warned.

She said the present government has no solutions and that it has no empathy or compassion for the poor and vulnerable is heartbreaking. “It has also abandoned any pretence of being a democratic government. All power is now concentrated in one office, the PMO. The spirit of federalism which is an integral part of our Constitution is all but forgotten. There is no indication either if the two Houses of Parliament or the Standing Committees will be summoned to meet,” she added. The meeting passed a resolution urging the Centre to declare the cyclone Amphan as a national calamity and demanded substantial help for the States in dealing with its impact. 

Published on May 22, 2020

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.