In an exclusive interview,Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the total expenditure budget of the central government and all the states put together is about Rs 70-75 lakh crore in 2020-21. Chidambaram said around Rs 5-6 lakh crore can be used from that to help the poor.
“Out of the Rs 70-75 lakh crore, we can easily garner Rs 5-6 lakh crore. This is eminently doable,” he said.
While he complimented many state governments who have carved out emergency funds to support daily wage labourers, he said they will have to top it up to reach the amount he specified in a 10-point plan to support the poor.
“What I have said, in my view, is the absolute minimum,” he said.
Agreeing that a lockdown at this stage is necessary to contain the spread of Covid-19, he added that it is not possible for all to stay home.
“A lockdown is not sufficient. If people are locked down, if people have to stay home, it costs money. It might appear counter-intuitive but you need money to stay home,” the senior Congress leader said.
He is worried that daily workers engaged in agriculture, self-employed and those who have lost their jobs or likely to lose their jobs will not have the required money to stay home.
“Where will they find the money?” Chidambaram questioned.
The former finance minister explained that the only way these daily workers can get the money is through money funnelled in through the rest of the country.
“The rest of the country has already paid taxes to the government, which also has other revenues and it must provide the money,” he said.
On layoffs and unpaid leaves that have been rising in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chidamabaram said the worker has to be paid wages.
“Employers must be told by law or notification that they have to maintain current levels of employment. Does not really matter if they are working or not working as there is a lockdown,” Chidamabaram said.