Empower states, one-size-fits-all strategy can’t succeed: Congress

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds video conference with the Chief Ministers of all the states to discuss measures against COVID-19, on Apr 2, 2020. (Photo: IANS/PIB)

New Delhi, April 4 (IANS) Amid the number of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) patients increasing in the country, the Congress on Saturday urged the central government to decentralise and empower states because the one-size-fits-all strategy cannot succeed.

Addressing the media through video conferencing, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, “As number of COVID-19 cases rise in India, states are at the frontline of this battle so we urge the Centre to decentralise and empower states because the one-size-fits-all strategy cannot succeed.”

She said in a dynamic situation, real solutions to combat the disease and the economic calamity exist at the local level.

“Thus agility of states is key but states are starved for funds,” she said.

The states don’t have the same instruments to mobilize funds like the union government – monetary, fiscal and credit policies even though real implementation of measures announced are being done by state governments, she added.

“We strongly urge the central government to announce a special economic package of at least Rs 1 lakh crore for states to combat the crisis. This can be made available to states on the basis of population and the extent of COVID-19 infections,” she said.

Shrinate, who contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully, said the states need money to set up quarantine facilities, testing, buy PPEs, thermal scanners, ventilators, air purifier, and consumables for government hospitals besides providing for the weak and vulnerable being impacted by the lockdown.

Demanding the release of full goods and services tax (GST) compensation to states, she said, “The centre has delayed payment of GST compensation to states.”

“Of the Rs 48,000 crore pending in GST compensation only Rs 6,195 crore has been released so far. Due to the halt in economic activity states are facing further shortage in GST revenue. Several states including the BJP ruled ones have approached the central government seeking clearance of their pending tax dues,” she pointed out.

She also urged the RBI to make cheaper loans available for states to borrow so that they have funds at their disposal to respond on a real-time basis.

“The additional 30 per cent increase in Way and Means Advances (WMA) for state governments announced by RBI comes at a high interest rate. This increase in borrowing limit must be made interest free,” she said.

The demand to resolve the inter-state supply chain management was also raised as she the Congress spokesperson said the state borders are sealed and trucks loaded with essential commodities have been left stranded which could lead to huge shortage of essential commodities in coming days. “The Central government must prescribe the required process to keep supply chain intact,” she said.

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