Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba shares his thoughts on the steps that need to be taken to help our region and people emerge from the COVID led economic crisis.
The pandemic has affected all geographies, communities and human race in the world. Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts are no exceptions. No one knows how long it will last and how to cure it. COVID-19 has brought so much of fear and suspicions among the family members, communities and systems. Some people are afraid of their own hands also.
The distress, devastating impact and derailment caused by the ongoing pandemic is deeply felt by the entire world. India has already suffered where at present 5 crore people are estimated to be already out of jobs and our gross domestic product is like to have negative growth rate.
In Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts we can see the severe distress caused by the pandemic. It has affected hotels to farmers, tea gardens to plumbers and electricians, schools and colleges to drivers and road side vegetable and food vendors and advocates to NGOs. No one remains untouched by it.
We now have large number of our people working in different parts of the country and also foreign lands coming back because of the lock down and also pandemic fears. Till yesterday they were our major source of income as they supported the families and communities in villages and towns.
As the MLA of Darjeeling, I have several practical proposals in mind to really help all the affected people. I have seen with my own eyes how people have suffered and in my interactions with them have been painfully touching. For the migrant brothers and sisters who were forced to come back to the hills and also others I have few immediate suggestions.
Government of India has announced Ra 20 lakh economic package. In this there are four major components for our people.
- Micro, small and medium enterprises which can be set up by taking low interest loans from the banks. These enterprises could be in any areas like piggery, home stay, food processing, restaurants, beauty parlour, security agency, coaching classes, agriculture, music firm, dairy farming etc. For this 3 lakh crore has been set aside.
- MGNAREGA package of more than 1 lakh crore has been given. One can immediately register for the job cards and start getting some relief in terms of daily wages.
- Shopkeepers and hawkers can now avail of soft loans of Rs 10000 immediately which can further be increased.
- For the farmers there are very attractive provisions through Kisan Credit Card and PM-Kisan, animal husbandry and any type of rural activities.
Besides the above, there are large number of central and state government projects, programmes supported by various donor agencies including Tata, Infosys, Bill Gates Foundation and also development projects floated by global institutions like Asian Development Bank, World Bank and UNDP.
I shall be very much available for helping all the affected families in getting at least some of these projects. I am sure the Member of Parliament, the GTA and West Bengal Government would also come forward to work together.
Let me also mention that in order to exactly assess and deal with the impact of COVID-19, we must immediately set up an Expert Group Committee. The report of this Committee would in fact be the basis for seeking and accessing funds, projects, relief measures and development programmes from various state, central and world agencies. No one will give funds and reliefs without any authentic and concrete documentations. GTA or the state government must set up such a Committee for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong Districts as quickly as possible.
There is already a huge and competitive rush for the funds at various levels.
We must hurry up.
[Writes: Neeraj Zimba, Member of Legislative Assembly, Darjeeling]