Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday pitched for the extension of the coronavirus lockdown, but with a carefully crafted exit strategy backed by economic empowerment of states to save lives and secure livelihood.
In a video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Punjab CM said in view of 'escalating' virus cases, the continuation of the lockdown was needed.
According to a release, he said the states should be given greater flexibility in micro-planning.
The decision on designating red, orange/yellow and green zones should be left to the states, which are more cognizant of the ground realities, he said.
The exit strategy should consider and focus on fiscal and economic empowerment of the states, which are responsible for real action directly impinging upon the livelihood and social health of the common man, said the chief minister.
The chief minister said micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be allowed to function in red zones with proper safeguards.
Amarinder also demanded an urgent financial assistance to states to meet at least 33 per cent of their committed liabilities, along with revenue grants for three months to meet the shortfall in revenue and fund expenditure on tackling coronavirus.
The chief minister told the prime minister that Punjab was losing Rs 3,000 crore per month in revenue with the state power corporation's losses pegged at Rs 30 crore daily.
He reiterated the demand for an immediate release of the Punjab's GST arrears of Rs 4,365.37 crore.
The chief minister said in view of a complete change in the economic situation due to the pandemic, the 15th Finance Commission should review its report for the current year and recommend devolution of funds for five years beginning from April 1 next year, instead of the current year.
Amarinder urged the PM Modi to increase the borrowing limit under the Financial Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2005 from 3 per cent to 4 per cent of state GDP to enable states to meet their fiscal liabilities.
The chief minister also called for a national strategy on testing, saying he has already written to the prime minister to direct central institutions in Chandigarh and Punjab to increase their testing capacity.
Punjab has so far done 40,962 tests with the current rate of 2,500 tests per day, which the state government has planned to scale up to 6,000 tests by the month-end, he said.
The Punjab government has been fighting the coronavirus battle from the front and had successfully brought down the mortality rate in the state to 1.8 per cent, the CM said.
The rate of increase in cases is falling after having risen sharply in the past 10 days due to a large number of people returning from other states testing positive for the infection, he said.
He expressed confidence that the situation will improve in the coming week.
With four containment zones, Punjab currently has 1,823 cases (2.75 per cent of all-India cases), with 31 deaths, translating into the mortality rate of 1.70 per cent, he told the PM.
The CM requested for an early announcement of MSP on paddy and a bonus on non-burning of stubble.
Amarinder Singh said Punjab has procured 115 lakh MT of wheat with proper social distancing and hygiene protocols in place.
In terms of inbound movement of stranded people, the chief minister said around 56,000 persons from Punjab stuck in other states have registered with his government while around 20,000 Indian nationals returning from other countries.
The state government has made elaborate arrangements for their quarantine and testing, he said.