Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday said that Covid-19 pandemic is a national challenge that should be kept above party politics but after a year the government is caught off guard.
Sonia Gandhi was speaking during the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting that was called virtually to discuss the issue of pandemic.
In her opening remarks she said, “The Indian National Congress has always believed that fighting the Covid-19 pandemic is a national challenge that should be kept above party politics. We have extended our hands of cooperation right from February-March, 2020.”
“We cannot, however, lose sight of the fact that the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the country with fury. Despite a year to prepare, we have, regrettably, been caught off guard again,” she added.
She said that the families are being torn apart, lives and livelihoods have been lost and entire life savings depleted on healthcare. It is deeply concerning to read news reports of acute shortages of medical equipment and hospital beds. Reports from across the country speak of the scarcity of Covid-19 vaccine as also of important life-saving drugs including Remdesivir in different parts of the country.
Sonia Gandhi extended profound sense of grief and sorrow to the thousands of families who have lost their loved ones over the past one year to the pandemic.
“Their pain and anguish is our pain and anguish. Let me also reiterate our deepest sense of gratitude to and support for the frontline health workers and the medical fraternity who have been rendering phenomenal service in the face of the severest of pressures and risks. We salute their sense of duty and dedication.”
She mentioned that recently, she had detailed discussion with the Chief Ministers of the states ruled by the Congress as also Ministers, where Congress is in alliance government, to take stock of the emergent situation from them.
“The gross unpreparedness and avoidable adhocism on part of the Modi Government in foreseeing, evaluating and managing the crisis,” she added.
She also said that she had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after meeting with the Chief Ministers who have spoken to the Prime Minister and written to the concerned minister from time to time pleading for relief but some of them were left with only a few days of vaccine, no oxygen or ventilators.
She alleged that there has been deafening silence on the part of the government. On the contrary some other states have received preferential treatment/relief. Instead of listening to the constructive suggestions of the opposition, union ministers are pressed into service to attack leaders of opposition for giving those suggestions.
“This convoluted ‘me versus you’ debate is childish and totally unnecessary,” she said.
It is true that after months of denial, the Central government has now given emergency use authorisation for vaccines developed elsewhere. Better to be late than never.
She also attacked the government for vaccine export. “India has already exported nearly 6.5 crore Covid-19 vaccine dosages to other countries. Considering the highest infection rate in the world in our own country, shouldn’t vaccine export be held back and priority given to protect our citizens? How is boasting about our generosity to other countries going to help the thousands of our people who are dying,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi in her remarks said that the government must also reconsider its priority for vaccine candidates by reducing the immunisation age to 25 years and above as also all younger persons with at-risk health disorders like asthma, angina, diabetes, kidney & liver diseases and other similar ailments.
She reiterated her demand of waiver of GST on drugs used in Covid.
“As the Central and State governments move ahead to control the situation by resorting to partial curfews, travel restrictions, closure and lock downs; we will again be restricting economic activity that will hit the already beleaguered people, especially the poor and the daily wagers. It is, therefore, imperative to provide monthly income support and transfer an amount of Rs 6,000/- in every eligible citizen’s account,” she demanded.
She said that the reverse migration of labour already having started, it will be critical to immediately address their need of safe transportation as indeed their suitable rehabilitation in host as well as home states.
“Let us ensure that the suggestions our party puts forward are considered by the government of India in the spirit of true democratic traditions. Taking on these challenging times as Indians rather than as political opponents will be true Rajadharma,” she said.