The Congress on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not announcing measures to assist healthcare workers and daily workers during the 21-day shutdown in the country in the wake of the novel coronavirus.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the country will follow the prime minister’s request for a lockdown. “But what did you do to stop the epidemic?” he asked Modi. “How will health workers be protected? What did you do about the crisis of jobs and subsistence? How will the poor spend the 21 days?”
Surjewala also demanded to know why N-95 masks, 3-ply masks and other essentials were not available for doctors, nurses and healthcare workers involved in treating patients. The Congress leader also criticised Modi for India banning the export of ventilators 84 days after the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“You did not say a single word about farmers,” Surjewala alleged. He said the time for harvesting and sale is here, but it would be a difficult task for the farmer. The Congress leader asked Modi to immediately announce relief measures for farmers.
“In this difficult time farm loan waiver is the only solution,” Surjewala said. He claimed that it is now necessary to implement the NYAY programme the Congress had unveiled during the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign. The NYAY programme promised a minimum income support for the poor.
Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said he experienced a mixture of emotions with the prime minister’s announcements – “relief, vindication, frustration, disappointment, worry, fear etc.” “The right thing to do is for every citizen to support the lockdown whatever may be the hardships,” Chidambaram tweeted. “I am certain the PM understands the urgency of announcing a financial package and putting cash in the pockets of the poor, daily workers, agricultural workers, self-employed etc.” He said the lockdown was “better late than never”.
However, he wondered how farmers would harvest their crops beginning April 1. “What is the meaning of Rs 15,000 crore announced by PM?” Chidambaram added. “Let me repeat – government needs to find Rs 5 lakh crore over the next 4-6 months to manage the economic consequences.”
Another Congress leader, Kapil Sibal, wondered what happened to the Financial Task Force the prime minister had announced a week ago. He said that while the government had allocated Rs 20,000 crore for the Central Vista project, it had set aside just Rs 15,000 crore for healthcare infrastructure.
Congress leader and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot backed the announcement. “I support the PM’s decision to implement a 21 day lockdown across India,” he tweeted. “Rajasthan was among the first states to implement a lockdown. We will ensure that public is not put to inconvenience during this period & essentials are supplied.”
Jyotiraditya Scindia, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party earlier this month after quitting the Congress, also backed Modi’s announcement. In a video posted on Twitter, Scindia said it is the responsibility of all Indians to follow the order for the sake for the country.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the announcement of a lockdown is very important. “I assure everyone in Delhi that supply of essential items will not be disrupted for the next three weeks,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured the public that there will be no shortage of essential goods during the period of the lockdown. “The central government, along with the state governments, its doing its utmost to ensure this,” he tweeted. “Nobody needs to be afraid, the entire country is united in this fight.”
The toll from coronavirus in India increased to 10 on Tuesday, and the total number of cases to 536. Globally, the toll has crossed 18,000, and the total number of cases is over 4 lakh, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University.