Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat on Thursday led the party’s online agitation in the state seeking monetary help from the centre for the economically weak in line with the Nyay income scheme earlier proposed by party leader Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress agitation, christened SpeakUpIndia, tapped popular social media platforms to convey its message amid the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
State Congress leaders took to social media, like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to ask the Narendra Modi government to provide an initial amount of Rs 10,000 to the poor and then Rs 7,500 per month for the next six months in view of the income disruption caused by the lockdown.
The agitation was held following instructions of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, said Mr Thorat, who is also a minister in the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra.
He said giving the money directly to the poor, who have been the worst hit by the financial crisis triggered by the over two-month-long lockdown, will enable them to make purchases, and ultimately help revive the stuttering economy.
“The common man is the worst hit by the coronavirus crisis. The one who struggles to make ends meet is left with no income source,” said Mr Thorat.
“What we are remembering the most at this juncture is the Nyay scheme Rahulji had proposed. We must give some amount of money to the poor, if we want to give momentum to the economy,” he said.
“Hence, the centre must extend monetary assistance to the poor, in line with the proposed scheme,” Balasaheb Thorat said as he took part in the protest through Facebook Live.
The state revenue minister picked holes in the centre’s recently announced Rs 20 lakh crore special economic stimulus, claiming the package is not about spending money, but more about giving loans.
The package is of no use to the poor who need monetary help to be able to make purchases, Thorat said.
He praised Congress men for helping stranded migrant workers in the state, following instructions by the party president.
Ashok Chavan, backing Mr Thorat, said, “I would urge the Government of India to deposit immediately the amounts suggested by the party so that they are able to survive in this situation and somehow make a living.”
Mr Chavan asked the centre to bear the cost of tickets of migrant workers returning to their native states and their food arrangements.
Another Congress leader, also a minister, Nitin Raut, asked the centre to provide financial assistance, and not loan, to the MSMEs.
The working days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) should also be increased to 200, he demanded.
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and senior party leader Prithviraj Chavan asked the centre to give a cash package to the micro, small and medium enterprises instead of a loan so that they can pay salaries to their employees.