In yet another letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has reiterated the demand for a direct benefit transfer to workers in the unorganised sector. Promising full support for the Centre’s endeavours to fight the spread of Covid-19, she said the nationwide lockdown is a welcome step. “As President of the Indian National Congress, I would like to state that we will support and collaborate fully with every step taken by the Union Government to ensure the containment of the pandemic,” she said in the letter.

The Congress President said it is imperative for everyone to rise above partisan interests and honour their duty towards humanity. She urged the Centre to ameliorate the “immense economic and existential pain” that vulnerable sections will soon be subjected to. Gandhi said the production of personal protection equipment must be scaled up. “Disseminating all essential information, including the locations of designated hospitals and their emergency phone line numbers is essential to facilitate management of the pandemic. A dedicated portal for sharing these and all other necessary information is one way forward,” she said.

Gandhi asked the Centre to immediately commission and begin construction of temporary facilities with large numbers of ICUs and ventilators in geographical areas where the outbreak is expected to be concentrated in the near future. She cited reports that many businesses and companies are laying off and retrenching large numbers of regular and temporary employees. “It would be in order for the Union Government to immediately put in place broad-based social protection measures including Direct Cash Transfer to these sections to tide over the period of difficulty,” she said and called for a cash transfer of ₹7,500 to every jan dhan and PM Kisan Yojna account, various pension accounts and MGNREGA workers’ accounts as a one-time special measure.

She said necessary steps should be taken to enable harvesting and procurement of crops at MSP. “This is also the right time to suspend all recoveries from farmers for a period of six months and to consider indebtedness relief liberally,” she added.

“All businesses, particularly the Micro, Small and Medium businesses, have been facing unprecedented distress from before the onset of the pandemic. The pandemic has increased their distress multi-fold. The Union Government must consider announcing a comprehensive sector-wise relief package including necessary tax breaks, interest subvention and deferment of liabilities,” she demanded.