Former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi has severely criticised the Centre on its various policies regarding the COVID-19 crisis Credit: File image

Guwahati: Alleging that nobody is questioning the correctness of the decision to go for countrywide lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, 2020, former Assam chief minister and veteran Congress leader Tarun Gogoi said that the “abrupt” complete lockdown within a few hours without proper planning and policy has immensely cost the country economically.

“As a result of this, lakhs of poor people, including daily-wage earners, rickshaw pullers, thelawallahs, traders, small businessmen, farmers, weavers, milk producers, fish producers, etc, have been adversely affected,” Gogoi alleged.

Criticising the Centre, the former Assam CM also alleged that about five to six lakh workers have been stranded in different parts of the country who have lost their jobs and livelihood.

“We have been emphasising from the very beginning that lives and livelihood both are equally important but the Prime Minister’s slogan was ‘Jaan hain to jahaan hain’. Subsequently of course he has realised and changed the slogan to ‘Jaan bhi jahaan bhi’. It is most unfortunate that we have not seen any concrete steps taken by the state government for providing financial assistance to help those economically affected poor people. Even those who are stranded in different parts of the country, they were asked to bear the expenses by themselves to travel by train to their respective states,” said Gogoi.

“Only after Sonia Gandhiji raised the issue and instructed Congress units of various states to bear the expenses of their railway fares of their own states that the government of India decided to bear 85% of the fares, with the remaining 15% to be borne by the respective state government,” Gogoi alleged, adding: “According to me, the whole expenses should have been borne by the government of India. Railway department extended Rs 151 crore to donation to PM’s fund.”

Alleging that even before the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in India, the economic condition of the country as well as states were deterioriating, the veteran Congress leader also said that lakhs of jobs were shrinking in all spheres.

“Other states were very keen to bring back their people stranded outside the state to their respective states but Assam government was not very keen to bring those stranded people. Government has not taken adequate steps to sell vegetables, milk etc, produced by the small farmers and no steps have been taken to support handicraft section, weavers of Sualkuchi. We raised those issues in all party meeting,” he regretted.

Coming down heavily on chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, for allegedly spreading the virus of hatred against the minority Muslim community, Gogoi also alleged that some Foreigners Tribunal judges in Assam made a similar statement that their contribution extended to Asom Arogya Nidhi should not be spent for the treatment of Tablighi Jamaatis. Though the state government has issued notices against these judges, they should be immediately dismissed, he said.

Regarding Centre’s move on suspension of all MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) fund until 2022, the former Assam chief minister from 2001 to 2016 demanded that such fund should be continued as it indirectly provides livelihood to many poor people in the state.

The veteran Congress leader also criticised the Centre for suspending all MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) fund until 2022

“Every poor jobless people should be given at least Rs.7600, including 10 kg rice. MGNREGA schemes are not being implemented properly. Out of total 27 crore MGNREGA job card holders in India, 12 crores are active. However only 93 lakh job card holders have been provided jobs but rest of the holders are not given jobs under this scheme so far. I urge upon to give jobs to all MGNREGA active card holders. Importance must be given to MGNREGA scheme. Even town area also should be covered under this scheme at this stage,” Gogoi demanded.

Urging the government to adopt austerity measures properly, he also demanded the Central government to provide substantial amount of fund to Northeastern states Under Prime Minister’s Care Fund, especially to Assam.

“Government of Assam should conduct a detail survey to make an assessment of loss incurred during total lockdown by different sectors in order to provide adequate financial support. With the help of Economic advisory committee, formed under the chairmanship of retired IAS officer Subhash Ch Das, the state government should plan long term and short term measure schemes to cope up with the economically declining situation and also for future course of action. Rs 5 VAT on petrol and diesel should be withdrawn immediately as it would affect in all section of societies. Immediate steps should be taken to support and save the small industries, craft industries, etc. Economic advisory committee should submit their report to government within a month,” Gogoi said.

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