Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday sought immediate release of GST compensation arrears of Rs 2,088 crore as well as deferment of instalments of industrial and agricultural loans by commercial banks to help the state fight the coronavirus infection.
In a letter, that followed a telephonic conversation, the Chief Minister sought from Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman some additional urgent steps to mitigate the crisis caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Union Finance Minister had earlier called up the Chief Minister, who subsequently sent her a detailed letter listing out certain important proposals to help out the state in this critical time, according to an official spokesperson.
The Chief Minister conveyed to Ms 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.
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.
In his letter, Mr Singh further proposed that the Centre should ask the 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 to 4 per cent.
In addition to deferment of instalments of Industrial loans, the Chief Minister has asked that commercial banks should defer loan instalments for Agriculture/Crop loans, which the Punjab Government had already done for the state cooperative banks.
In line with the initiative taken by the State Government with respect to cooperative banks, he has also sought a waiver of three months’ interest on Agricultural/ Crop loans by commercial banks.
Referring to the special insurance already announced by the Union Finance Minister for Health Workers, the Chief Minister has asked for a 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.
Under MGNREGS, Mr 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.
He has suggested allowing 10-day wages under MGNREGS to small and marginal farmers to defray labour costs.
Given the delay in harvesting of wheat already announced by the state government, the Chief Minister has asked for bonus to farmers for delayed procurement of wheat to incentivise social distancing and prevent over-crowding in mandis.