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Let parliamentary panel on finance meet virtually to take stock of economy: Congress

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New Delhi, Apr 19: As India grapples to contain the spread of Covid-19, Congress leader Manish Tewari has said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance should meet to take stock of the country's economic situation and suggest ways to come out of the financial crisis due to the lockdown.

Let parliamentary panel on finance meet virtually to take stock of economy: Congress

In a letter to Jayant Sinha, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, Tewari has urged him to explore the feasibility of convening a meeting of the panel virtually to take stock of the situation.

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He said it is important to call the meeting as businesses and poor people are suffering amid the ongoing nationwide lockdown.

Tewari urged Sinha to seek permission from the Lok Sabha speaker for making arrangements for the meeting and making secretarial staff available to facilitate it.

He also said the views and suggestions of former prime minister Manmohan Singh are pertinent in this regard, as he is a noted economist known the world over.

"With lockdown restrictions set to ease from April 20, may I request you to kindly speak to Speaker and explore the feasibility of Parliament Secretariat facilitating it," the Congress leader wrote in his letter to Sinha.

He said unemployment rates are soaring with some estimates putting the rate of urban unemployment at 30.9 per cent and the overall rate at 23.4 per cent.

The former Union minister added that businesses across the board need to be recapitalised to kickstart the economy.

The government did announce some relief measures on March 27, amounting to 0.7-0.8 per cent of the GDP, and the Reserve Bank of India followed up with some initiatives on Friday. However, experts say that much more is needed to be done, he noted.

"It is in this context, Parliament and especially the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance shoulders a very important responsibility," Tewari told Sinha.

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He said while Parliament had to be adjourned abruptly on March 23 because of Covid-19, it is still possible for the panel to convene a meeting virtually as it has only 30 members.

"Both during World War I and World War II, British Parliament met regularly. The same was true of our Parliament during 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars.

"The objective of such a meeting is not to exercise oversight on the government's economic response, though I may dare say that is a legitimate function of Parliament, but to ensure that the 30 members on the committee are able to constructively engage with government functionaries to fine-tune and precision-point the government's response," the Congress leader wrote in the letter.

Noting that Covid-19 is undoubtedly the most serious health challenge the world has confronted since the Spanish Flu of 1918, he said, "They did not know a virus then and we do not know the coronavirus now."

However, another equally serious dimension to this unfortunate situation is the rapidly deteriorating economic scenario, Tewari said, adding that the last 25 days have demonstrated how fragile our economy is and that poor people are the worst sufferers in this tragedy.

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Highlighting the plight of the migrants stranded at various places across the country, he said a rough estimate puts the number of such people on the roads or in quarantine camps between eight and 11 crore.

They are barely on a subsistence-level diet, which is hardly enough to sustain the levels of immunity required for fighting the disease, the Congress leader said, adding that sporadic reports of suicides because of the economic destitution are trickling in.

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