In a letter, he urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to allow the opening of small shops, businesses and industries in all areas, except the containment zones, with full compliance of COVID prevention measures.
Flagging the fund crunch in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh once again on Monday sought the release of GST arrears of over Rs 4,000 crore from the Centre. In a written submission to the Union government, the Punjab chief minister also demanded a grant due to meet the revenue deficit caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter, he urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to allow the opening of small shops, businesses and industries in all areas, except the containment zones, with full compliance of COVID prevention measures. The Punjab CM made the submission as only nine CMs were selected to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video-conference on Monday.
Those from other states, including Punjab, were asked to send a written submission, listing pending issues for consideration, a government release said. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has once again drew the Centre’s attention to critical needs of the state in light of the unprecedented crisis and lockdown, said the release. Among various state-related issues, the CM listed the release of Punjab’s goods and services tax (GST) arrears of Rs 4,386.37 crore, and a grant to meet the shortfall in revenue to contain COVID-19.
Other pending issues cited by the CM included a bonus to farmers for staggered purchase of wheat and a direct cash assistance to industrial and agricultural labourers. He reiterated the state’s demand for assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises besides power generation and distribution companies by way of interest subvention, deferment of loans and reduction in GST on coal.
These issues are of paramount importance and needed immediate attention, said Singh, urging the Home Ministry to “appreciate and ensure an early action on these issues for further effective management of COVID-19 as also to provide requisite relief to all those who are adversely affected by this crisis”.
The CM said a revenue grant for the next three months, with a flexibility to states in spending as per local conditions, will help them tide over the acute fiscal crisis faced due to revenue shortfall. He suggested that the 15th Finance Commission should review its report for the current year as the situation has completely changed due to COVID-19.
The Finance Commission should recommend devolution of funds for five years beginning from April 2021, instead of April 2020 onwards, after factoring in the impact of the pandemic, he said.
Singh also urged the Centre to announce a special risk insurance for police personnel and sanitary workers engaged in the fight against the virus. He sought a relief of Rs 6,000 per month for daily wagers and industrial workers.
Other key demands of the state government included the payment of unemployment allowance for three months under the MGNREGA to help the rural poor; and the utilisation of the 14th Finance Commission grants by urban local bodies and panchayati raj institutions for emergency relief, including food and medicines, to the rural poor.