Take bold steps to protect MSME workers: Chidambaram

Take bold steps to protect salaries of MSME workers: Chidambaram

Questioning the “silence” of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the second financial assistance package to kick-start the economy, Congress on Wednesday urged the Modi government to take bold steps to save the MSMEs which are in distress.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram cited the Paycheck Protection Program of the US and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a package to protect the wages, salaries, and paycheques of about 11 crore people working in the MSME sector.

“What has the government done? The last I heard the Finance Minister was on March 25. There has been no word on the financial assistance package-II for 37 days,” Chidambaram told reporters through a video link.

He said the businesses have not witnessed any sales this month and their payments to their vendors were also stuck, leaving the vendors also in distress.

“There is palpable tension and rising uncertainty among the working people of India and their families,” the senior Congress leader said.

“The time to make bold decisions to save the MSMEs is now. If businesses do not see hope, they will decide to close,” Chidambaram cautioned.

The former Finance Minister said that according to the income-tax department, there were roughly one 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 one 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 one crore people who have filed tax returns and paid taxes in the past, and can be easily found,” Chidambaram said.

He also suggested a waiver of employers’ contributions to the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees State Insurance (ESI), on a temporary basis, for the next three months.