Demanding an increase in Centre's relief fund for underprivileged people during COVID-19 lockdown, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury suggested that the Government should transfer an amount of Rs 7,500 in bank accounts of families who do not pay income tax and distribute of free ration among the needy.
In an upcoming issue of the party's mouthpiece 'People's Democracy', Yechury also stated that India ranks among the countries which are testing the least number of people for COVID-19 and suggested to increase the testing rapidly.
"We must ensure that there are no starvation deaths that occur in our country. It is, therefore, imperative that the government must immediately implement a Rs 7,500 ex gratia cash transfer to all non-income tax-paying families and resort to universal distribution of free foodgrains to all needy people," Yechury said.
The leader also said that MGNREGA workers should be paid wages during the lockdown period. He also suggested that the Centre must assist the employers financially so they do not cut the wages of their employees. Yechury further demanded an arrangement for migrant workers to return to their homes.
Noting that India's first COVID-19 case was reported on January 30 this year, Sitaram Yechury alleged that the Centre did not take any substantive measures for seven long weeks until the announcement of the lockdown on March 24.
"As far as the lockdown is concerned, many countries in the world moved with greater urgency - China locked down Wuhan on January 23, the whole of Italy was locked down on March 10, USA declared a national emergency on March 13, Spain on March 14, France on March 17 and UK on March 23," he said.
He said that several experiences from the 21-day lockdown need to be addressed to the nation, in order to strengthen the nation's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the lives of citizens. Yechury said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not substantially discuss any of these vital points in his address to the nation on April 14.
(With inputs from ANI, Image: PTI)