Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said the coronavirus pandemic has increased disturbingly, both in spread and its speed, but the central government has not taken her party’s full cooperation.
“I offered our constructive cooperation and suggestions,” Gandhi said at the Congress Working Committee meeting, according to spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala. “Unfortunately, they have been acted upon only partially and in a miserly way. The compassion, large-heartedness and alacrity from the central government is conspicuous by its absence.”
Gandhi has written several letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past month, offering suggestions to tackle the crisis. Other Congress leaders such as Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram have also offered advice to the government.
The number of coronavirus patients in India rose to 21,373 on Thursday morning, but the Indian Council of Medical Research said at least 21,797 people have tested positive so far. The toll increased to 681, while the number of patients who have recovered stood at 4,257.
The Congress has repeatedly said that there is no alternative to testing, tracing and quarantining, Gandhi pointed out. “Unfortunately, testing still remains low and testing kits are still in short supply and of poor quality. PPE kits number and quality is poor.”
Some sections of the society are facing acute hardship, Gandhi said at the key Congress leadership meeting on Thursday, specifying migrant workers, farmers, construction workers and people in the unorganised sector. “Migrant labourers are still stranded, jobless and desperate to return home. They have been hit the hardest. They must be provided with food security and a financial safety net in order to survive this period of crisis.”
She added that farmers were facing serious difficulties too. “The issues of weak and unclear procurement policies and disrupted supply chains need to be addressed without delay...facilities must be made available to the farmers for the next round of Kharif crops,” Gandhi said.
“Trade, commerce and industry have come to a virtual halt and crores of livelihoods have been destroyed,” she said. “Twelve crore jobs have been lost in the first phase of the lockdown. Unemployment is likely to increase further as economic activity remains at a standstill. It is imperative to provide at least Rs 7,500 to each family to tide over this crisis.”
Micro, small and medium enterprises employ around 11 crore people and make up a third of India’s GDP, she said, adding that it was “imperative that a special package be announced urgently” to ensure they survive and not face economic ruin.
But, Gandhi added, there are a few success stories and those must be applauded. “Most of all we should salute every single Indian leading the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic inspite of the absence of adequate personal protection equipment,” she said. “The doctors, nurses, paramedics, health workers, sanitation workers and essential service providers, NGO and the lakhs of citizens providing relief to the most needy all over India. Their dedication and determination truly inspire us all.”
Other leaders such as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also spoke at the meeting. The party’s leaders stressed on the role of the Centre in providing necessary assistance to state governments to handle the situation.
“Cooperation between Centre and states [is] key to [the] success of our fight against Covid-19,” Singh said. Meanwhile, Gehlot too warned that states will be weakened unless the Centre came forward to provide them financial aid to help them contain the spread of Covid-19, PTI reported.
His remarks were also echoed by Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy. “Centre has not given us any assistance. How will states survive in time of crisis?” he asked.