Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced the much-anticipated relief package of Rs 1.7 trillion to soften the blow of the coronavirus lockdown on the poor. It has several well meaning measures, though much would depend on how they are implemented to ensure that the relief reaches the intended beneficiaries. An insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh to the sanitation workers, including doctors is a motivational announcement for those serving the nation, braving the threat to their own lives.
But disappointingly, there is no announcement to stimulate the economy, or specific to the industries and banks. Bankers are “not heartless” but need clear cut instructions, as they do not have the authority to take policy decisions. They need to be instructed to defer NPA classification and not to launch recovery proceedings against defaulting borrowers, besides extending lines of credit at low rates of interest to those rendered jobless. Credit card companies should be instructed not to charge their fancy rates of interest on delayed repayments. Direct transfer of credit to the poor and migrant workers to be allowed, even in cases where KYC compliance is pending. Tax men should also be told to eschew coercion in collecting dues from the assesses, since the stiff revenue targets fixed for them were to enable the government reach its ambitious spending and investment estimates announced in the annual budget, which are no longer tenable. One hopes the government comes up with such measures in its next announcement to mitigate the impact of the unprecedented crisis on all sections of people.
V Jayaraman Chennai
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