Unorganised labour to be priority in Centre’s relief package: Punjab CM

Chandigarh, May 13 (IANS) Expressing disappointment at the Centre's failure to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said immediate intervention in the unorganised labour sector should have been a top priority in the fiscal relief package, the first tranche of which was announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“It was unfortunate that the Finance Minister had not deemed it fit to balance the needs of the MSMEs, NBFCs and the housing sector with the urgent requirements of the lakhs of migrant labourers facing unprecedented problems due to the current crisis,” said the Chief Minister.

Citing the Prime Minister's emphasis on securing ‘jaan' with ‘jahan', Amarinder Singh said the first set of announcements from the Finance Minister showed no intent at protecting lives, without which there could, in fact, be no livelihood.

“The MSMEs, the housing sector, etc, have to first survive, and then take the leap to the revival stage. And how will they survive without their workers, who have left them in hordes and seem in no mood to return any time soon?” asked the Chief Minister, urging the Central government to take note of the woes of the labourers, especially in the unorganised sector, to address the immediate challenges for the national economy.

While the implications and impact of the relief announced by the Union Finance Minister would need more analysis, the Chief Minister said on the face of it, the MSMEs had not received the much-needed bailout package. Instead, they were being offered loans, which will only end up plunging them into a deeper debt crisis.

Even the MSMEs working in the critical health sector have not received any special incentives to give them the impetus that they need right now to support the Covid battle, Amarinder Singh lamented the absence of any serious thought in prioritising the nation's needs at this critical juncture.

Pointing out that Punjab had 2.52 lakh industries, of which only about 1,000 were large, the Chief Minister said given the magnitude of the problem, the Centre would need to come out with a massive package for the MSMEs to resume operations.

And only when the MSMEs start opening up will the migrant labour return to the state, he added.

The announcements made on Wednesday, said the Chief Minister, appeared to be aimed at reviving the economy in the long term, and not focused on giving the urgent financial support needed by the critical sectors of the economy.

The Chief Minister hoped that the next set of announcements from the Finance Minister would see some concrete announcements for the unorganised labour sector, in particular, and also address the grave unemployment crisis staring the country.



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