Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the government should rework on the ₹20 trillion economic stimulus package, announced to mitigate the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, by giving money directly to people to spur demand instead of focusing on a loan-centric approach.
Senior Congress leaders and other opposition parties have raised concerns over the scope of the package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week. Three tranches of the stimulus package have already been announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and a fourth tranche is due for announcement later today. The stimulus package has till now focused on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), migrant labourers, poor, agriculture and allied activities, among others.
“This package talks about loans but that will not spur demand. Unless people do not have money in their pockets, they will not spend. The union government should reconsider this package and include a demand-firing aspect," Gandhi said, while addressing an online press conference with regional media.
"Lockdown is not an on or off switch, it is not an event, it is a process and we have to carefully assess it. The vulnerable population should be protected before taking any stand," he said.
The third phase of the world's most stringent lockdown ends on 17 May. The nature of the fourth phase of the lockdown, that started on 25 March, will be decided on the basis of inputs from state governments, Modi had said, after announcing the package.
Gandhi also said the reason for the government to not directly give cash to the people is the fear of downgrade in sovereign ratings.
“If we do not support small businesses, farmers and migrants now, our economy will not start. And if our economy does not start, the question of ratings does not arise...I will humbly ask the PM to start putting money directly," he added.
Gandhi also said the Centre could decide the medium of disbursal but it should ensure that the money reaches people directly.