Slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not announcing any additional financial package to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said it was not just praise which states wanted, but assistance to tide over the difficult situation.
He told reporters here that that banks were charging heavy interest from states during the present crisis and the states expected financial assistance from the centre and not just praise.
"The Prime Minister, in his address to the nation, praised the states for the effective dealing of the pandemic. I feel that states just don't require praise alone, but financial assistance. When we approach banks for loans, the interest rate is nine per cent. Most of the states have limited the borrowing to Rs 500-1000 crore and started cutting off salaries or halting other developmental activities," he said.
Mr Isaac said the lockdown extension would control the deadly virus and urged the centre to conduct intense testing in the country.
He said the states will be constrained without additional resources.
Mr Isaac said the state cabinet would take a decision on restrictions during the second phase of lockdown, on Wednesday after the centre issues guidelines.
The Minister said that though the situation in Kerala was improving, it was not the case in other parts of the country.
"It seems like the number of patients are doubling every four days. Lockdown is the only way to prevent it from spreading. Also we have a learned a lesson that we need more testing in our country," he said.
Mr Isaac also said that the centre must learn lessons from the past three weeks.
"The first lesson is that without extensive testing, lockdown will not be effective and the second is that without income support, migrant workers across the country will refuse to comply with lockdown protocol and start travelling to their native lands," Mr Isaac said.
He said lack of extensive testing is a "weak point" of the country even though an effective lockdown was imposed.
"Livelihoods will collapse as the number of families employed in MGNREG falls to one per cent of normal.
The centre should transfer at least half of last year's wages, as advance at least to the accounts of every registered worker. It should also increase the work days to 150," he said.
The Minister said the Centre should provide financial assistance by borrowing money from the Reserve Bank and provide it to states.
He also said the restrictions in Kerala can be relaxed in those districts where there were no new cases for over a week or there was a reduction in the number of patients.
Agriculture, small-scale industries, construction sector mainly road constructions and repair, export sectors are priority areas which are likely to get relaxation in restriction.
The decision in this regard will taken be taken by the cabinet tomorrow, Mr Isaac said.