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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

“Janata Curfew Over, Now Indian Economy Needs Help”, Says P Chidambaram

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram asked the centre to support the economy during the virus outbreak

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"Janata Curfew Over, Now Indian Economy Needs Help", Says P Chidambaram
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New Delhi: Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted late Sunday night, after the end of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Janata (public) curfew”, to remind the centre that, despite the success of the 14-hour lockdown, the Indian economy still needed protection against the ravages of the novel coronavirus outbreak. In his tweet the former Finance Minister said “we now look to the central government to announce economic measures to deal with the consequences of COVID-19”.

Mr Chidambaram also congratulated the Chief Ministers of various states for locking down their respective territories in an effort to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus. A number of states, including the national capital Delhi, have announced a complete shutdown that includes taking public transport off the streets, sealing borders and shutting non-essential services and shops

“The Janata curfew is over. The experience of today has motivated several CMs to declare a lockdown in many parts of their respective states. We now look to the central government to announce economic measures to deal with the consequences of COVID-19,” he tweeted.

Mr Chidambaram, one of the Modi government’s sharpest critics, had backed the “Janata curfew “in a column published today in The Indian Express, saying he was “duty-bound” to support the PM in the fight against a virus that has infected nearly 400 people and killed at least seven others.

That support, however, has not mitigated the veteran politician’s concern for the economy.

“The PM implied that the current economic slump was triggered by COVID-19; that is not true. The beginning of the decline of the growth rate of GDP pre-dates COVID-19,” he wrote in his column, pointing out that factories had laid-off workers and small producers were suffering cash flow problems.

“The government is responsible for managing the economic fallout due to coronavirus. Its first duty is to protect employment and wages,” Mr Chidambaram wrote.

Across the world countries affected by the virus have announced support for their economies.

The UK will spend 330 million pounds and the United States close to a trillion dollars, while European countries like France, Spain and Italy will all spend billions of euros.

56rou4egNearly 400 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus in India.

So far the centre has yet to announce a plan, although the Prime Minister has set up a task force, under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to study the impact of the virus on the economy.

On Friday Ms Sitharaman said a package for coronavirus-hit sectors would be announced “as soon as possible”. She did not, however, give a timeline for the same.

Individual states, however, have come out with relief packages, including BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, where daily wage labourers and construction workers will get Rs 1,000 per month. This morning Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said 72 lakh people would receive free rations and pension.

In addition to Mr Chidambaram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has also reminded the centre of the need to support the economy. In tweets posted Sunday, she urged the centre to work with the RBI for a one-time restructuring of corporate debt and an “immediate economic stimulus”.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also commented on this subject, warning the Prime Minister that the Indian economy could be devastated by the coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected several sectors of the economy, including the automotive. India’s largest car manufacturer, Maruti, has indefinitely shut factories in Haryana. Honda and Mahindra & Mahindra have suspended operations till March 31.

The pandemic also hit the stock markets, with both the Sensex and the Nifty suffering massive losses this month. They have rallied but analysts say the recovery is likely short-lived as the country, and indeed the world, goes into a lockdown to fight the virus.

The coronavirus outbreak originated in China’s Wuhan district in December last year and has swept the world, infecting over three lakh people in over 140 countries and killing over 10,000 others.

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