NEW DELHI: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge termed on Monday the Centre's stimulus package to revive the economy hit by COVID-19 a "rude shock" and urged it to instruct banks not to initiate insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings against farmers unable to repay loans.
He said the government should ensure that farmers don't fall into the clutches of local money lenders because the banks are hesitating to give them fresh loans.
Kharge alleged that in the name of agriculture reforms, the government was "happy to allow private traders into agricultural produce and livestock market committees (APMCs). In a statement, he also said, "In the name of land reforms, it wants industrialists selling and buying farmers' land."
"If the government can announce that no insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings will be initiated against businesses that are affected due to coronavirus outbreak, then it should instruct banks to treat farmer loans the same way. Farmers should not fall into clutches of local money lenders because banks are hesitating to give them fresh loans," he said.
The Congress general secretary said it has been 60 days since the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed and every sector of the Indian economy was facing a grave crisis.
"We needed a sector-wise plan and the government had 60 days of lockdown to plan for this. Sectors like tourism, hospitality, airlines, transport, retail, restaurants, construction needed very specific measures, given they employ a large number of people.
"But, it is clear from the measures announced last week that the government has either no sense of the crisis or has plainly refused to address it to revive the economy," he said.
Kharge claimed that India's GDP growth rate has been declining for the last six years.
The crisis was brewing even before the coronavirus pandemic, but the sudden shock of the lockdown has "pushed the economy from a slowdown to a complete shutdown", he said.
He said the government needed to revive the economy by reviving supply, demand and credit cycle with its financial package.
"Instead, the economic package doesn't just prove the government is insincere but has failed on all fronts." The former Union minister said announcements made by the prime minister should be done with a lot of deliberation and seriousness, especially during such an unprecedented crisis.
"The so-called Rs 20 lakh crore economic package has now been analysed by experts, and its total cost works out to less than 1 per cent of the GDP. It has come as a rude shock for anyone who was expecting some respite," Kharge said.
"The PM only intends to make grand headline news without taking his colleagues into confidence. That is perhaps why the finance ministry was unprepared and put together such a shoddy package," he said.
The Congress general secretary in-charge of the party's affairs in Maharashtra said the economic package had no immediate relief for the agriculture sector and it just talks about reforms.
Farmers have already lost fruit and vegetable produce due to the lockdown. They have sold crops at below minimum support price because they could not transport their harvest and a sincere government would spend money to procure harvest, he said.
"The misery inflicted by the lockdown on migrant workers is unmissable as there has been no relief provided to them and the government has openly mocked their plight in their press conferences."
"If the government had announced direct cash transfer to these migrant workers when the lockdown was first announced, probably they would not have felt the need to walk hundreds of kilometres," Kharge noted.
Kharge lamented that the government "simply does not want to provide any direct relief to the poor because it would mean endorsing the NYAY scheme that Rahul Gandhi had proposed".
Regarding finances by states, Kherge said if the Union government was sincere, it would have helped the states borrow from the open market through RBI at the same rate at which the Centre can borrow.
"The agenda of the government under the cover of coronavirus relief in the name of reforms seems to be selling PSUs when the markets are down, removing the protection of labour laws, and allowing the rich to freely buy the distressed farmer's only asset" his land.
"The government has lost a big opportunity to provide relief to crores of migrant workers, the poor on one end and the industries on the other end.
The relief package and the press conferences have not only exposed the apathy of the government towards the migrant workers but also its arrogance and hypocrisy," the Congress leader said.