NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to consider giving advance wages to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers hit by the nationwide lockdown.
This is the second such letter that Gandhi has written to Modi in the last one week urging the union government to take steps to safeguard daily wage laborers.
“Social distancing norms have rendered all works unfeasible under lockdown. Furthermore even after the work commences, MGNREGA workers have to wait for more than a month to receive wages," Gandhi said in the letter dated Wednesday.
“Given the urgency of providing economic support to the rural poor, due to lost wages, the government may consider immediate advance payment of wages for 21 days to registered and active MGNREGA workers. The advance may be adjusted against the work to be done by the workers, once MGNREGA sites are opened up," she added.
Gandhi said lakhs of agricultural workers have been left unemployed in harvesting season and that advance payment of wages could extend support to nearly eight crore rural workers in the country. MGNREGA is a flagship rural employment guarantee scheme which was started during former prime minister Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
On 26 March, Gandhi had written to Modi to consider direct cash transfers to the poor, a six-month suspension of recoveries from farmers, waving off equated monthly instalments (EMIs) for the salaried class for six months and a sector-wise relief package for businesses in view of the Covid-19 outbreak. Rahul Gandhi, former Congress president, too had written to Modi on Sunday saying consequences of a "complete economic shutdown" will "disastrously amplify" death toll arising out of the outbreak of the pandemic.
Congress party on Wednesday also demanded that the union government should announce minimum three months loan interest waiver on EMIs for salaried, middle class and medium small and micro enterprises (MSME).
"The BJP government must provide a protective shield to the middle class, lower middle class, farmers, education loan borrowers by completely waiving-off the interest on the loans availed for atleast the next three months commencing on date of announcement of lockdown. In other words, ensure loan amount outstanding on 1 March should be same as on 1 July by waiving off the 3 months interest," Jaiveer Shergill, national spokesperson of Congress said in an online press conference on Wednesday.
The Reserve Bank of India last week permitted banks, NBFCs (including housing finance companies) and other financial institutions to allow a three-month moratorium on payment of instalments on term loans in view of the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.