Rahul Gandhi and Abhijit Banerjee
Rahul Gandhi and Abhijit Banerjee

On Tuesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi held a conversation with Nobel Laureate, Abhijit Banerjee on the economic fall out of the COVID-19 crisis, as part of his series of discussions with experts.

Taking to Twitter, Rahul Gandhi wrote: "Tomorrow at 9 AM, tune in to watch my conversation with Nobel Laureate, Abhijit Banerjee on dealing with the economic fall out of the COVID-19 crisis. To join the conversation and for regular video updates, subscribe to my YouTube channel."

As the duo began their conversation that addresses the coronavirus pandemic, Banerjee says "it's surreal and frightening." "It's because nobody actually knows what's going to happen next," he adds.

Further, addressing the coronavirus pandemic impact on the poor and the economic devastation, Gandhi asked Banerjee about the schemes put in place by the UPA government to which Banerjee said, " All these good schemes are not adequate."

Speaking about various schemes, Banerjee said that it would have been wonderful to have the Aadhaar card to be linked to the Public Distribution System. "You would be eligible for PDS if it is linked with Aadhaar from wherever you are. A person in Mumbai can have access to it even if his family resides elsewhere," he says.

"This would have saved a lot of misery," he comments.

Banerjee said that "several people are not eligible for NREGA because they are in Mumbai and there is no NREGA in the city."

Speaking about economy's revival, Banerjee says that "The government has not dedicated large enough financial package yet. It is important to revive demand, nothing bad will happen if we give the bottom 60 per cent with more money." He also cited the example of US setting aside 10 percent of GDP to tackle COVID-19 crisis.

"Give temporary ration cards to everybody; use those for transferring money, wheat and rice to them," he added.

He emphasised on how important it is to spend in order to revive the government. "Spending is easiest way to revive economy; spending will have stimulus effect," he says.

Addressing the government's decision to make arrangements for the movement of migrant workers, Banerjee says, "Checking of migrants before the large scale movements amid the country is a concern and needs to be undertaken by the Federal government."

Banerjee said that we should try to be optimistic about overall economic revival in India post-lockdown."We need to be aware of the disease's path before taking decision on lifting lockdown."

Banerjee also told Gandhi that the direct cash transfer should really reach poor people and added "To give cash to people, we really need some machinery. Migrants may not have access to that. We should give a bunch of money available to the state government for them to try out new strategies."

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal