As migrant workers die on roads, FM talks about FDI, space, commercial mining; netizens call it ‘shameless’

As part of the much touted 20 lakh crore economic package amid COVID-19 crisis, FM Sitharaman addressed media for the 4th time and announced certain measures promoting privatisation in some sectors

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
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NH Web Desk

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressed the media for the fourt consecutive time as part of the much touted Rs 20 lakh crores package amid the economic crisis that’s looming large on the country due to the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.

And for the fourth consecutive time, the finance minister did not at all mention the poor and destitute migrant workers who have been walking back home on foot due to the crisis created by he COVID-19 lockdown. Despite many measures announced by the government these migrants are forced to walk thousands of kilometres to reach their native villages and hundreds of them have been killed in road accidents.

Instead, the finance minister talked about:

  • Privatisation, mega push to mining, defence, civil aviation and power distribution sectors.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said foreign investors would be allowed to own up to a 74 per cent stake in defence manufacturing ventures under the automatic route, up from the current 49 per cent limit.
  • The government will expand the list of weapons/platforms banned for imports with year-wise timelines and indigenisation of some imported spares. This, she said, would boost domestic manufacturing and cut huge defence import bill.
  • Six more airports will be bid out for operation and maintenance on public-private partnership (PPP) basis. Also, additional investment by private players in 12 airports bid out in the first two rounds is expected to be around Rs 13,000 crore.
  • For the coal sector, she announced allowing the private sector in commercial mining as well as auction of even partially explored coal blocks. Also, turning coal into liquid or gaseous fuel will be incentivised while rights to exploit of gas lying below coal bed (CBM) in blocks owned by state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) will be auctioned.

Along with these announcements which have no direct or immediate relief for the poor, jobless and migrants, the social media was quick to notice that the ruling BJP happened to celebrate six years in the government on Saturday.

The celebrations of the ruling BJP, ‘promising’ announcements of the finance minister juxtaposed with the thousands of starving migrants walking back home for days prompted netizens to respond sarcastically. Soon, ‘ShamelessBJP’ started trending on Twitter.

The Congress too questioned these announcements and raised pertinent questions: After the package that was announced today, will even a single penny go into the pocket of 8 crore migrant labourers, farmers, 7 crore grocery shopkeepers or middle class? What will 14 crore people who lost their jobs get?

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh called the finance minister’s announcements ‘bizarre’. In a series of tweets he slammed the government for not announcing a single measure which could increase demand and called it a ‘cruel joke’:

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