Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amrinder Singh, has taken a proactive posture in meeting the challenge posed by COVID 19 to his state of Punjab. Strict lock down, referred to as curfew too, has kept the number of confirmed cases of COVID 19 infection at 278; of these 53 have recovered while 16 have lost their lives. There is an increase in certain areas that is alarming but not critical. Punjab today stands, not among the best states that have no case, but somewhere in the middle which is also very good.
Under these circumstances, a statement issued by the chief minister that the central government is not cooperating with Punjab to the extent required to fight Corona comes as a surprise and causes concern.
In reply to the statement a BJP spokesperson has listed out the assistance that has been extended to Punjab in view of the calamity. Punjab has received under National Health Mission 40.82 crore on 25th March; on 6th April, 71.87 crore, was released under Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness; under State Disaster Relief fund, 247 crore has been released; under GST compensation, 2366 crore has been given. To ensure that every poor gets sufficient 3 meals three times a day, under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna, Punjab is getting 70725 MT food grains every month which will continue for next 3 months, 1.41 crore people, which is about 80% of Punjab population, will get 5 kg wheat, 1 kg pulses for next three months.
Not only this, government has given packages for middle class and industry which is benefitting people of Punjab also. EMI has been deferred for three months, no firm or industry will be declared NPA up to 31st December. Recently, RBI has given a lot of reliefs, Repo Rate has been decreased which will reduce EMI installment. In coming days, the Central Government is likely to announce a big package for MSME.
This apart, Punjab has been receiving a fair disbursement of its share in all central schemes and funds. Under MNREGA, 72 crore has been released to Punjab; under Central Government’s Ujjwala scheme, 3,21000 people of Punjab have benefitted; 18,22000 Punjab farmers have got Rs. 2000 each in their accounts, which comes to 364 crore. Under Jan Dhan Yojna, 33 lakh Punjab women have got Rs. 500 each in their account, which is about 165 crore. Under National Social Assistance Program for old and handicapped persons and widows, 1.4 lakh people have received 7 crore. 3.25 Lakh beneficiaries have got 190 crore under the Building and Construction Fund.
It is reasonable to say that Central Government is taking huge steps in the positive direction without being tied down by political constraints. A misleading and politically loaded statement emanating from the highest office in Punjab can have a very detrimental effect on the moral of the people, who are already deeply stressed due to prolonged lock down and pending economic distress. it is best avoidable. Even if there are issues involved they should be resolved behind closed doors and that too expeditiously.
It goes without saying that in these troubled times Punjab is fortunate to have a strong leadership at the state level as the country has at the national level in the form of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Whatever the political affiliation their concern for the people is without doubt. It is for this reason that Punjab as well as the whole of India is fighting the deadly pandemic so successfully and that too in comparison to most developed countries.
It would be best if all political parties rise above politics at this time and face this pandemic. An inability to do so by a tall hands-on leader like Chief Minister Amrinder Singh would be very unfortunate for the state.
The people of Punjab have adhered to all directives issued by the chief minister with excellent spirit, they have reposed complete trust in him. Now it is up to him to rise to the occasion and guide them safely through all the manifestations of this calamity that include medical and economic safety among others. These are times when the political parties are expected to shed differences and take a unified stand to meet the biggest ever medical challenge posed upon the country and the entire world.