The Congress on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for comparing the tragic deaths of nearly 70 children in Gorakhpur last week to casualties recorded in natural calamities.

“Many parts of the country faced natural calamities in the recent past,” the prime minister said in his Independence Day speech at the Red Fort in Delhi. “Children died at a hospital. The entire nation is with them.”

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said Modi had equated the Gorakhpur tragedy to deaths in natural disasters “in a very trivial manner”. “He should have been careful,” Sharma said.

He also took on Modi for lauding the Centre for bringing the Goods and Services Tax into effect. “For seven years, he and the BJP in Opposition had stalled the GST,” Sharma told reporters. “The Opposition today is responsible as we allowed the constitutional amendment to pass. We did not expect him to completely ignore us and then expect cooperation.”

The Congress leader further criticised the Centre for not acting against the repeated ceasefire violations and terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said Modi’s remark that the unrest in the state cannot be resolved by “abuse and bullets” should apply to the security forces in the Valley, as well. “I guess that covers both sides – terrorists and security forces,” the National Conference leader said on Twitter.