Since March 26, Operation Lifeline Udan has transported 885 tons of critical medical supplies and essential cargo more than 500,000 km through 546 flights to the most remote destinations in the country. Under the Vande Bharat Mission, as the first schedule fits into the second flight schedule, the Government of India (GoI) plans to bring 50,000 stranded Indians back to the country by the end of May. These are some of the responsibilities that the Government of India has committed to in response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis, even as we contemplate the reopening of national aviation. But what has the Opposition been involved in during this critical moment?
A credible opposition is essential for democratic functioning. This becomes even more important in times of crisis. The governance challenges of dealing with the pandemic are setting a new model. The changing positions of the Opposition seeking to use this humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to regain its lost political relevance will be scrutinized with the same care to which government activities will be subjected.
India was one of the first to wake up to the threat of the pandemic by screening passengers, stopping flights and enforcing a blockade across the country. When the nation emerged as a prophetic and globally responsible nation having taken preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus, the Opposition called the closure sudden, severe and one-sided. If it weren’t for the blockade, we would have found ourselves in the same boat as many of the more developed nations where more than thousands have been dying every day.
Even as the Government of India initiated immediate support to farmers, construction workers, poor women, the elderly, laborers, low-wage workers and other vulnerable sections under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan package of ~ 1.7 lakh crore, the Opposition suggested that the government does not care for the poor. Various developments, such as the approval of 6.3 million loans worth ~ 86,600 crore in agriculture between March 1 and April 30, and an additional allocation of ~ 40,000 crore under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme of Mahatma Gandhi compared to last year, to benefit salary seekers. fly before such falsehood.
The Opposition’s response to the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-sufficient Indian Campaign) has been particularly surprising. Before the announcement, the Opposition spoke of improving liquidity and extending support to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MIPYMES).
When the details of the ambitious and holistic package extending various innovative measures for MSMEs were announced, at a cost of more than ~ Rs 6 crore lakh, prominent members of the Opposition changed the target, suggesting that no action had been taken for MSMEs. migrant workers. In their eagerness to criticize, they may not have seen the fact that the majority of migrant workers are employed in MSMEs, and these steps would benefit them.
The next day, when specific steps are taken to help our migrant workers by giving them a single serving card to access the Public Distribution Plan (PDS), affordable rental housing through public-private partnerships, interest subsidy for the Mudra Shishu loans and Credit for street vendors was announced, some members of the Opposition tried to disparage them by suggesting that street vendors do not go to banks for credit and take out loans at 1% per day.
Through various initiatives over the past six years, such as Jan Dhan Yojna, Direct Benefit Transfer, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Ayushman Bharat Yojana and Ujjwala Yojana, the Center has used technology to provide the benefits of governance to the most important sectors. vulnerable. The government will partner with non-bank finance companies, microfinance institutions and banks to provide working capital loans to street vendors, and an interest subsidy scheme will be developed under the Deendayal Antoyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission to reward providers for good repayment behavior and extend your eligibility for larger loans. Under the single-nation, single-serving card initiative, 670 million beneficiaries in 23 states, covering 83% of the PDS population, will be covered by national portability in August.
Changing course, some members of the Opposition have argued that easy loans for MSMEs are not a stimulus, since a loan is normal banking practice and only fiscal measures count. But people understand that a stimulus is anything that helps people, especially to start their businesses. By providing credit guarantees, the government is trying to prevent companies from going bankrupt and improving the liquidity of MSMEs will help them to restart their activities quickly. If this is not a stimulus, what is?
Similar intellectual ineptitude has been demonstrated in response to the prime minister’s call for far-reaching reforms in land, labor, liquidity and laws to make India self-sufficient by leveraging demand in the country. Although the prime minister specified that the approach is to be self-sufficient by participating and leading global value chains without being self-centered or introspective, the Opposition resorted to scaremongering that multinational corporations are shown the door when the exact opposite occurs. being tried by the government.
As more steps are announced for Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the Opposition will be more exposed. In a democracy, when the main Opposition party fails to win even 10% of the seats in the Lok Sabha, a certain level of despair is understandable. But if you lose your ability to engage in constructive criticism in this rush to weave false narratives, you further compromise your relevance in the political system.
Hardeep Puri is a Union Minister
Opinions expressed are personal