New Delhi: Chief ministers of three big Congress states have come up with various requests to the Centre, including special financial packages, release of more grain, permission to resume construction in urban areas, reopening retail stores in green zones and extension to the Finance Commission for submitting its final report.

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot reminded the Centre that it was yet to meet demands of various states for Covid-19 relief and rehabilitation packages while asking for release of more grain for the poor. Gehlot said a number of states had sought help and relief packages and expressed the hope that financial assistance to the states will be announced soon. “The demand for ration increased during lockdown as a large number of families are asking for wheat to be distributed through public distribution system,” Gehlot tweeted.

Noting that a zero-growth scenario in GDP was a possibility, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh in his letter to PM Modi asked for a 3-month special financial package. “I would request you to direct the Fifteenth Finance Commission to defer the submission of its full report to October 2021, when it will be better able to make a realistic assessment of the likely growth of the economy over the next five years. Nothing would be worse than getting committed to a five year revenue sharing projection based on unrealistically high growth projections,” the Punjab CM said in his letter. “Punjab is facing huge stress on the state exchequer and the near-complete shutdown of trade, business and industry had led to a collapse in revenues, and this had happened at a time when essential health and relief expenditures needed to be massively scaled up,” the CM said.

Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel sought exemptions in economic activities, including construction in urban areas and retail stores in green zone districts. Saying activities allowed in second phase of lockout were not revenue generators, he sought the Centre’s permission to resume registration of properties, opening of car showrooms, repair work, opening of fridge, air conditioner and air cooler shops and sweet shops to help dairy farmers. “The main sources of revenue for Chhattisgarh government include GST, mining, excise duty on liquor, registration of properties and vehicles. Due to the long lockdown period, the revenue for the government is almost zero now. In the current scenario, the state share in central taxes would also drastically reduce,” Baghel said in a letter to Modi, underlining that only five of the 28 districts have been affected by Covid-19. “We request you to release a minimum ₹30,000 crore package over the next three months. Out of this ₹10,000 crore should be released immediately so that the state government can give a stimulus to industry, agriculture and other allied services,” Baghel’s letter to the PM said.

The Congress Working Committee and its chief ministers are set to hold a video conference on Thursday after which requests such as financial package, grain for the poor and policy on stranded migrants could be presented as a collective appeal to the Centre. The AICC reiterated its demand that the Centre pass on a portion of gains from petrol and diesel sales to Covid-19 related schemes. The party also questioned the rationale of keeping domestic oil product prices high even after global crude prices crashed.

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