Concerned citizenry of Kerala call the Rs. 20 lakh crore package a “colossal betrayal”

They demanded that the PM withdraw the anti-people package and work to increase purchasing power of the people


In the month of May, as India saw a surge in Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package for the economic revival of the country. The package was worth Rs. 20 lakh crore and announced in five tranches by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. However, various publications like India Today cited experts who said that out of the Rs. 20 lakh crores, only Rs. 70,000 crore was fresh money and the rest was already provisioned for in the Union Budget.

The announcement of the package came two months after India was in the throes of the pandemic, with its underprivileged population, especially the migrants, being hit hard by it. Overnight, people lost their jobs and their homes and daily wagers didn’t know where to get their next meal from. Due to this, scores of migrants started walking back to their native villages, thousands of kilometers away, on foot and some met with an unfortunate fate after they died in accidents or due to hunger and exhaustion.

The economic package received a lot of criticism with it being a ‘jugglery of numbers’ by activists and the Opposition who pointed out that the package did nothing to address the current concerns of farmers and migrants. Echoing a similar sentiment, the concerned citizenry of Kerala including prominent persons like Advocate George Pulikuthiyil, Dr. Jyothi Krishnan, Prof. T R Venugopalan, Dr. J Devika and Prof MK Sanu among others issued a collective response in a letter dated May 28 which said, “The corona revival package for 20 lakhs crores announced by the government of India at a time when the country is stagnant politically, socially as well as mentally due to the miseries and sufferings that the pandemic created, is a national betrayal and political hypocrisy.” The letter read that on the pretext of Rs. 20 lakh crore, the government provided a benefit of less than Rs. 1.5 lakh crore to the 40 crore people who were struggling to make ends meet.

They said that instead of providing stimulus to the hapless and weak, the Prime Minister opened up strong assets of the nation – defence, space and coal, to the corporate sector adding that there were no programs in the package to increase and stabilize the purchasing power of the people who lived in the margins of shining India and whose liquidity eroded fully due to the continuous and unexpected lockdown. They wrote that the reforms and economic systems announced in the package called for democratic discussion and legislation, but were instead imposed on the people – an act that wasn’t only alarming but also undemocratic and despotic.

In their letter they alleged that through the package, strategic sectors were being opened up to private companies owned by the Ambanis and Adanis and that with the announcement, the withdrawal of the public sector from strategic and core areas which started in the nineties, had now been completed.

Most importantly, the signatories stated, was the nullification of the Essential Commodities Act which regulated the price and distribution of essential commodities like food products. “With this step the Modi government issued full license to harvest the gains of the Indian peasants at a cheap rate and to hoard it as he liked,” they said. They added, “Modi Government has owed the big corporate and publicly declared unqualified support to them by suspending the existing labour laws in the Country. This act of treachery of workers will invite international consequences.”

It must be noted that during the lockdown, the supply chain took a hit with transport being shut apart from people being asked to stay at home. As migrants returned home, there were very few left in the cities to man factories and other operations like the transportation of grains. Farmers had to pay more for pesticides and seeds, take multiple trips to mandis and sell fares below the Minimum Support Price (MSP) especially if they were selling perishable crops.

Labour laws were diluted too, with job losses, non-payment of wages from companies and state governments increasing the number of work hours, reducing breaks and not offering enough compensation for extra hours – all citing shortage of labour.

In their letter, the prominent citizens of Kerala demanded that the PM make it clear on whose prescription the package was announced at the time of the national lockdown when people were helpless to protest and react. They said, “We demand the withdrawal of this anti people package and give shape to a programme which will help to increase the purchasing power of the people. We remind the democratic forces of the country to take up the issue openly and build up resistance against this. We believe they will do their duty. A strong public opinion and hectic resistance against this anti people package is the need of the hour.”

The entire copy of the letter may be read below.



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