Isaac seeks Central aid, GST arrears to tide over crisis

    Liberalise SDRF norms to support affected families

    Kerala has sought an enhanced allocation for the health sector, liberalisation of the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) norms to support COVID-19-affected families, and immediate release of Goods and Services Tax (GST) arrears of ₹3,000 crore to tide over the State’s crisis.

    In a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman on Tuesday, Dr. Isaac said additional financial and material assistance should be provided to the States for managing the brewing crisis and demands. The testing facilities for COVID-19 should be expanded immediately.

    The SDRF norms should be further liberalised to compensate the families that lost members and also meet the medical expenses of positive cases.

    Considering the deleterious impact of the pandemic on the economy, the Centre should either immediately wipe out the GST compensation arrears amounting to ₹3,000 crore or raise the borrowing limits for the current financial year by 0.5%.

    Pension arrears

    The Centre should at least permit the State government to front-load market borrowing for next financial year so that the payment arrears pending since 2019-20 could be cleared and the five-month arrears of social welfare pensions due to 55 lakh elderly could be disbursed during the Vishu festival.

    Dr. Isaac sought a six months’ moratorium on loans extended by commercial banks so that the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) sector would not be rendered bankrupt.

    He made a plea for reducing the fuel prices to contain the inflationary pressures and for extending larger credit to prop up the MSME sector that is in distress.

    The Centre should increase the number of mandays and increase the wage rate of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Since the financial year is drawing to a close, steps should be taken to extend the programme up to April and May. Kerala has planned a drive to clean up canals to an extent of 50,000 km and plant one crore fruit-bearing trees under the scheme, he said.

    Source- The Hindu.

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