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Congress members talk of price rise, suggest coronavirus threat be declared national disaster

ANI | Updated: Mar 20, 2020 21:27 IST

New Delhi [India], Mar 20 (ANI): Opposition members in Lok Sabha on Friday demanded fiscal stimulus and a package for vulnerable sections to deal with the economic impact of coronavirus spread as Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said that crisis should be fought together and "panic button" should not be pressed.
There were suggestions from opposition members that coronavirus threat should be declared a "national disaster" and the stock market should be closed.
Seeking to raise the issue during Zero Hour, Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that they were with the Prime Minister over the ways suggested by him to prevent the spread of coronavirus during his address to the nation.
However, he claimed that prices have soared after Modi's address.
"The prices are rising sharply. Products are not available. Mask is not available. The situation is that the goods are going in the hands of hoarders and middlemen," he alleged.
He said that the government must declare a financial package that will include compensation for wage losses of employees who earn daily wages such as taxi and auto drivers, agricultural labourers, construction workers, security guards, watchmen, domestic helps, street food vendors and cart pullers.
Chowdhury sought compensation for small and medium businesses who lose their earnings and provision of rations, including rice, wheat and other essential items for APL and BPL categories.
He also demanded a moratorium on loans of all nature till such time when repayment can be made.
The Congress MP said that payment of wages under MGNREGA should be made in advance for the next three months.
The Congress member demanded specific sums to be paid for the BPL Antyodaya categories who are not included in any welfare pension schemes.
He also sought suspension of taxes and levies and utility bills for two months -- April and May -- with no fines levied.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said that the government has taken many steps and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given suggestions for which everyone will work together.
He said that it was not right to say that essential services were not available.

"To say this or that is not available, it is wrong. Everything is available. Creating the panic and pressing the panic button is not at all good. This is a national and international crisis. I do not want to politicise it. Everyone should collectively think how to deal with the crisis," he said.
Joshi said that the Prime Minister is continuously taking care of the situation and a lot of precautions have been taken.
"I do not want to politicise the issue. Whatever the Prime Minister has said yesterday is regarding the precautions to be taken. He has also touched the issue of the economy. Hence, an economic task force has been formed," Joshi said.
Congress member Hibi Eden said that the global economy has been shattered due to the spread of COVID-19.
He said the "life and livelihood of the people are at stake" and the government has increased excise duty and road cess on petrol and diesel.
He demanded a rollback of government's decision and said that petrol and diesel should be brought under the GST.
Another Congress member H Vasanthakumar demanded that the government should declare coronavirus threat a national disaster.
He said that as coronavirus threat is affecting the whole nation, "a zero-revenue situation will definitely impact the repayment of loans".
The member said that the government should re-schedule loan repayments by small businessmen and individuals at least for three months.
"The daily wage earners have been the worst-affected. I would urge the government to pay a minimum of Rs 2,000 per family from the National Disaster Fund. GST should be waived-off for all the sectors for the period till the disaster is over," he said.
Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy said share trading should be stopped "because there is a bloodbath in the share market".
He said that a total of Rs 44.5 lakh crore of investor wealth has been wiped out in a month.
"There was some hope that there will be a fiscal stimulus from the government. But yesterday, the Prime Minister's speech did not speak of a fiscal stimulus or creation of a fund like Donald Trump has created for meeting the COVID-19 challenge. Either the government should announce a fiscal stimulus or let it close down the share market before the Sensex falls further," he said.
Congress member Preneet Kaur also expressed concern over difficulties of daily-wage earners due to the economic impact of coronavirus threat. (ANI)