STATE TIMES NEWSJAMMU: Former Minister and senior Congress leader Raman Bhalla on Monday slammed both Union Govt and J&K UT Administration’s failure to urgently adopt measures to protect the poorest and most vulnerable people amid continue rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country on daily basis. The lockdown has already disproportionately hurt marginalized communities due to loss of livelihood and lack of food, shelter, health, and other basic needs. Authorities should recognize that malnourishment and untreated illness will exacerbate problems and should ensure that the most marginalized don’t bear an unfair burden from lack of essential supplies. The government should pay pending wages for all work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and expand its scope to those now forced out of work. Rural laborers will not be able to work because of the lockdown and should be given wages during the crisis. “Farming communities are facing losses during harvest season and the government needs to step up procurement to protect agricultural income and save the produce. The authorities in India should take all necessary steps to ensure that everyone has access to food and medical care, and that the poor and marginalized are not mistreated or stigmatized,” Bhalla said. He hit out at the government over the hike in excise duty on petrol and diesel, demanding that the benefit of reduced international crude oil prices should be passed on to the people. He said the government should reduce the rates of petrol, diesel and LPG by at least 35-40 percent. “Union Government has looted the people by increasing excise duties and huge taxes on petroleum products and did not bring this under GST despite the consistent demand of Congress,” he said. “The ill-directed anti-people policies of the BJP government are responsible for the high prices of petrol, diesel and LPG despite crude oil consistently remaining down to less than 50 percent for the last six years,” Bhalla said. This he said during an interaction with aggrieved people, who expressed their miseries due to steep price rise of essential commodities at Narwal in Bhagatpur Mohalla. Prominent among those present on the occasion include Corporater Kamal Singh Jamwal, Panch, Kuldeep Raj Billa, Ex Sarpanch Manhor Lal, Om Parkash and Bholla Ram.
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