Congress has pressed with a demand that the government should come up with "paycheque protection program" to shield the small wage earners and low salary income groups in MSME and non-MSME sectors and this should be announced in a day or two.
Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said while addressing a press conference, "we urge the government to announce a Paycheque Protection Program, similar to the one announced in the United States. This is not a legislation but a financial assistance package."
"Rs 1 lakh crore Wage Protection assistance to help MSMEs pay wages and salaries for the month of April, and Rs 1 lakh crore Credit Guarantee fund for MSMEs that will help them to go to the banks and borrow money," demanded Chidambaram.
The former Finance Minister said that according to the income-tax department, there are roughly 1 crore people with a salary income of less than Rs 3,50,000 a year or Rs 30,000 a month. Assuming an average salary of Rs 15,000 a month for these 1 crore people, the total cost comes to Rs 15,000 crore for the month of April. This is not a large sum to protect the livelihood of 1 crore people who have filed tax returns and paid taxes in the past, and can be easily found.
The Congress party also suggested waiver of employers' contributions to the employees provident fund (EPF) and employees state insurance (ESI), on a temporary basis, for the next three months. "This will assist in reducing the payroll costs of employers and retaining the workforce." said Chidambaram.
The former minister feared that if there is no clear signal of assistance from the Government during these extremely difficult times, the private sector will be forced to resort to large scale retrenchments and lay-offs which will devastate the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people and urge the Prime Minister to step in urgently and announce an assistance package to protect the wages, salaries and pay cheques that are due in the next few days.