Chief Minister Amarinder Singh (File photo)
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh (File photo)

Amarinder urges Sitharaman to release Rs 2,088 cr GST compensation for Punjab to mitigate COVID-19 crisis

ANI | Updated: Mar 29, 2020 02:00 IST

Chandigarh [India], Mar 29 (ANI): Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday sought urgent intervention by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to mitigate the crisis caused by COVID-19 outbreak in Punjab, including immediate release of Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation arrears of Rs 2,088 crore, specific only to the state till March 2020.
The Chief Minister has asked Sitharaman that Commercial Banks should defer loan instalments for agriculture/crop loans, which the Punjab Government had already done for the State Cooperative Banks. He has also sought a waiver of three months' interest on agricultural/ crop loans by commercial banks.
In addition to the Punjab-specific GST compensation arrears, the Chief Minister proposed that the balance GST compensation due may be released with other States.
"The Chief Minister conveyed to Sitharaman that for opening the banks, he had asked the State Finance Department to issue necessary guidelines to facilitate the common man in meeting his banking requirements," an official release said.
In a letter to Sitharaman, Singh further proposed that the Centre should ask the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to raise the ways and means advances for all states to tide over the shortfall in receipts.
He also suggested that the Government of India may raise the borrowing limit of States under the FRBM Act from 3 per cent to 4 per cent.
"Referring to the special insurance already announced by the Union Finance Minister for Health Workers, the Chief Minister has asked for one-time special insurance on similar lines also for sanitary workers and police personnel, as they too are frontline warriors in the fight against COVID-19. He has also sought Grant of Rs. 300 crore for health infrastructure and personnel for fighting COVID-19," the release said.
Under the MGNREGS, Singh has proposed payment of 15 days unemployment allowance per month for three months to mitigate rural distress on account of lockdown on 90:10 sharing pattern.
In addition, he has suggested allowing 10-day wages under MGNREGS to small and marginal farmers to defray labour costs.
Given the delay in the harvesting of Wheat already announced by the state government, the Chief Minister has asked for the bonus to farmers for delayed procurement of wheat to incentivise social distancing and prevent over-crowding in Mandis.
"Line Ministries may be asked to take a pragmatic view of expenditures incurred by States under various Centrally-Sponsored Schemes (CSS), and also to avoid imposing any cuts in the next year's allocations due to the situation of force majeure declared by Government of India, suggested Captain Amarinder," read the release.
"The Chief Minister has also proposed doubling of the component of 25 per cent funds under Centrally-Sponsored Schemes that can be used as flexi funds for State-specific needs, including for mitigation/restoration activities in case of natural calamities as per Ministry of Finance O.M. of 6th September 2016," it said.
The Punjab CM proposed that the component of 25 per cent flexi funds may be raised to 50 per cent and also be fully funded by the Government of India as a one-time measure in 2020-21.
The Chief Minister requested the Finance Minister to consider these proposals favourably in the overall national interest to help mitigate the crisis caused by the unforeseen and exceptional situation.
Meanwhile, Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu has written a letter to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan saying that the state requires additional funds of minimum Rs 150 crores from the Government of India.
"Punjab has the maximum number of NRIs (Non-resident Indians) in the country & 90,000 of them landed in the state this month... Number of COVID-19 patients are going to increase alarmingly. To combat this, Punjab requires additional funds of minimum Rs 150 crores from Government of India," the letter said.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), there are 918 confirmed cases of coronavirus cases in the country and 19 fatalities have been reported. (ANI)