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AASU calls for financial package

A study has claimed that the pandemic can push nearly 50% of the state's population below the poverty line
AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 01.08.20, 02:30 AM

The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has urged the state government to announce a financial package for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic which has caused health as well as financial distress.

“The Pandemic has not only caused health adversities but also financial distress. Daily wage earners, Farmers, Vendors, local Entrepreneurs, Media Houses, Advocates, Entertainment industry, Sportspersons, etc bear the brunt. Urge @mygovassam to announce financial package for those affected,” AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya tweeted on Friday. The state government’s Twitter handle is mygovassam.

A study conducted by the State Innovation and Transformation Aayog (SITA) in June had claimed that the pandemic could make around 67 lakh of the state’s estimated population of 3.2 crore people vulnerable and push nearly 50 per cent of its population below the poverty line.

“The public have done whatever the government has asked them to do in the fight against Covid1-19. By supporting the government, the people have become economically vulnerable. One just has to go and sit near the neighbourhood grocery shop to witness the difficulties people are facing, including the middle class families,” Bhattacharjya told The Telegraph.

The “neighbourhood grocery shop” example reflects a disturbing trend. With over 3.5 lakh people returning home, more than 20 lakh registered unemployed, an economy in doldrums and uncertainty over the future, one could very well visualise the unfolding situation, sources said.

The pandemic, according to a senior government official, has gone from “bad to worse” with an alarming rise in positive cases. Till Friday, the total case count in Assam had crossed the 39,000 mark with 94 deaths. The floods, which have affected 30 of the 33 districts and claimed 109 lives since May 22, has worsened the plight of the people.

Bhattacharjya said the AASU will step up its efforts to secure some kind of assistance for those in most need to help them stay afloat but felt disappointed for having to flag the issue. “Financial help should have been announced by the government on its own. It’s the least it could have done to support the affected people. We are not asking for loans or moratorium on loans because it has to be repaid, which is not possible in these uncertain times when there are no earnings and so many layoffs.”

“Apart from Covid-19, people are also having to contend with floods which has caused extensive damage,” he added.

The SITA study had said the service, manufacturing and agriculture and allied sectors would be severely impacted by the pandemic.

As an interim measure, it had recommended cash transfer of Rs 3,000 per month to BPL households for at least three months, Rs 5,000 per month for three months to those self-employed in the unorganised sector and casual labourers without jobs and interest-free soft crop loans up to Rs 50,000 to farmers.

The government has launched a digital platform for registration of skilled and unskilled workers who have returned to the state.

Around 7,000 people have already registered on the platform, according to officials.

“Both skilled and unskilled people will have to register themselves on the portal. The objective of the platform is provide them skills, facilitate placement and also provide loan so that they can start their own business. We will launch a massive publicity campaign on Sudakhya from next week,” a senior industry department official told this newspaper.

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