The opposition slammed the Centre's announcement on the first tranche of Rs 20 lakh crore COVID-19 economic stimulus package on Wednesday as a "disappointment" and a "big zero" that has "nothing" for migrant workers, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party hailed it, saying it reflected the government's commitment towards creating jobs and stimulating the economy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that the measures announced on Wednesday to boost the economy hit by the coronavirus lockdown will enhance liquidity, empower entrepreneurs and strengthen their competitive spirit.
He also said the announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will go a long way in addressing issues faced by businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
Congress leader P Chidambaram hit out at the government soon after Sitharaman unveiled the first set of incentives as part of the special package announced by Modi on Tuesday, and said it is a "prisoner of its own ignorance and fears".
While opposition parties, including the Left and the Trinamool Congress, flayed the government, the ruling BJP welcomed the package with its president J P Nadda asserting that the measures like provision of collateral free loans, debts and equity for MSMEs, liquidity for NBFCs and support to real estate and other tax measures shows the commitment to creating jobs and stimulating economy.
"I thank PM Narendra Modi and Nirmala Sitharaman for this holistic package & wide ranging steps to make India 'atmanirbhar bharat'. In this testing time, we have a compassionate and responsive government under the leadership of our Prime Minister Modi Ji," Nadda said.
Outlining the first set of components of the Rs 20 lakh crore COVID-19 economic stimulus package, Sitharaman announced about Rs 6 lakh crore package, including Rs 3 lakh crore of collateral-free loans for small businesses and a Rs 30,000 crore lifeline to non-bank and housing finance companies as part of measures to help the economy tide over disruptions caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
In a sharp criticism, former Union finance minister Chidambaram said the Centre has announced Rs 3 lakh crore of collateral-free loans for small businesses and asked where the remaining Rs 16.4 lakh crore was.
"Except for the modest MSME package, we are disappointed with today's announcements," he said.
"Where is the rest of the Rs 16.4 lakh crore? This government is a prisoner of its own ignorance and fears. The government must spend more, but it is not willing to do so. The government must borrow more, but it is not willing to do so. The government must allow states to borrow more and spend more, but it is not willing to do so," he said.
Chidambaram said the first thing the government needs to do is to "put money in the hands of the 13-crore families in the bottom of the population" that will cost the government only Rs 65,000 crore if Rs 5,000 is given to each family.
Trinamool Congress president and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the finance minister had offered nothing to states and her announcements were "a big zero".
"The special economic package announced by the Union government is nothing but a big zero. It is an eyewash to fool people. There is nothing for the unorganised sector, public spending and employment generation," she said.
However, Union home minister Amit Shah dubbed the steps announced by Sitharaman as "unprecedented" and said the initiatives reflected Modi's commitment to revive our economy, help small businesses and boost employment.
The Left parties said that Sitharaman failed to address the immediate concerns of people and dismissed the economic package as a "farce".
"Those who urgently and immediately need help are walking hungry on the roads or looking for a meal from somewhere. This (government) is completely insensitive to the existential crisis being faced by crores... There is nothing for the states which have been asking for funds, as they are at the forefront of fighting the pandemic," said Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury in a tweet.
CPI's D Raja said the package did not address the issues of joblessness and hunger.