A majority of the Chief Ministers who spoke at a video-conference meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday flagged the issue of crippling funds shortage, with the lockdown choking revenue sources and the delayed GST payouts from the Centre.
The video-conference was called on the 18th day of the lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Thirteen Chief Ministers spoke at the meeting that started at 11.00 a.m. and concluded at 3.00 p.m.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was the first speaker and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chouhan was the last one.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao said his State used to get ₹40,000 crore each month in revenue, and this had now come down to a mere ₹4,000 crore. He expressed his helplessness in handling the COVID-19 pandemic with limited resources.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy raised a similar issue. He said 62% of the workforce in his State was engaged in agriculture. The inter-State movement of farm goods was abysmally low, with less than 25% of the trucks plying the highway. There were no marketing avenues. “How much can we absorb locally? Many families will face destitution if this continues,” he said. The industries could not be expected to pay wages while they were not working, he said.
“Today is the 18th day of the lockdown and we are yet to get a single paisa from the government to assist us in the fight against the coronavirus. My government has given ₹2,000 a family to all APL and BPL card-holders, ₹5,000 to farmers and a substantial aid to self-help groups. Where will we get the money?” Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy said. The Prime Minister, he said, did not address any of these concerns.
Almost all Chief Ministers wanted the lockdown extended, but a few asked that it be limited to the hotspots.
Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy said restrictions should be limited to zones with a high number of cases. “There are 676 mandals, of which only 37 are in the red zone and 44 in orange. So there are only 81 mandals affected by the coronavirus. In my opinion, the lockdown should be limited to the red zone,” he said. But he wanted the physical distancing norms to continue, with malls, cinema halls, mass transport systems and schools closed.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said economic activities should be allowed within the States. He said international air transport and inter-State transport and train services should not be restarted. He also pitched for a special package for the micro, small and medium enterprises.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raised the issue of constant interference from the Governors and the Lieutenant-Governors. “She told the Prime Minister that during this period of crisis some of the Governors are interfering in the day-to-day working of the State governments, which is now taking menacing proportions,” Mr. Narayanasamy said.
He said he was also facing a similar problem from Lieutenant-Governor Kiran Bedi. But he could not raise the issue because he did not get a chance to speak.
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