In a strong and forceful attack on the government’s recent package of measures to alleviate the suffering of the poor and vulnerable, as well as the plight of MSMEs, Professor Jayati Ghosh has said no one would have believed that a democratic government would treat its own citizens, who are poor and vulnerable, so badly.
Ghosh said it seems as if the Modi government just doesn’t care what happens to the hundreds of millions who’ve lost their livelihood and face destitution and starvation. She said she was embarrassed – and not just disappointed – by the measures announced by the finance minister on Thursday to tackle the plight of migrant workers.
In a 27-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Prof Ghosh, who chairs the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University, went on to say that India’s elite were also to blame for the way the poor, who are one-third of the population, are being treated. She said that they were permitting it to happen from the comfort of their homes.
Prof Ghosh said she was appalled the government had not ordered immediate cash transfers and enhanced the free grain allocation. She said, as things stand, the relief measures announced in March terminated at the end of June, which is six weeks away, but the government had not even spoken of extending them. She told The Wire that whilst ration card portability or affordable rental accommodation schemes were welcome and necessary they were hardly what was needed in an immediate existential crisis. She said the interest subvention for Mudra Shishu loans was meaningless because it was well known, for quite a while before the lockdown, that the vast majority of these loans would be defaulted upon.
Prof Ghosh told The Wire that the measures announced on Wednesday to help MSMEs would not make a meaningful difference. What was needed – but not done – were three steps: immediate payment of the Rs 5 lakh crore dues owed to MSMEs by the government, vigorous steps to increase demand by giving people money and increased funds for state government who are in the frontline of the struggle to fight the virus and revive lives and livelihoods.
Prof Ghosh said she was very doubtful of the finance minister’s commitment that MSME dues would be cleared within 45 days by the Central government and central PSUs. She said such commitments had been frequently made and reneged upon.