Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the Narendra Modi government’s plan to control the spreading coronavirus in India with four phases of nationwide lockdown has failed. He questioned the Centre’s plan to control the rise in infections in the coming days and if there is a strategy to open the country.
Gandhi said states cannot have a strategy to tackle the pandemic without any help from the central government. “Two months ago, the prime minister said that we are going to fight a 21-day war against Covid-19,” he said during a virtual press conference. “It was his expectations. It’s now the only country in the world where the virus is exponentially rising and we are opening the lockdown. The purpose of the lockdown has failed.”
Gandhi said the disease profile was increasing in several states and that it will be “extremely devastating” if the country faced a second wave of the coronavirus. “We want to ask the government, what is their strategy as far as India’s opening up is concerned and what precautions they are going to take, how are they thinking and how they are going to support the migrants and our states,” he questioned. “We just want to know what are they going to do going forward. It is pretty clear that four stages of lockdown has not achieved what Modi and his advisory staff had expected, as they said the disease would start to reduce by end of May.”
“What India is facing now is a result of a failed lockdown,” the Wayanad MP said. “What we expected from the lockdown is not happening.”
He added that the country was already suffering on the economic front and now it is affected by the pandemic. “Injection of money is required into MSME [Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises] and labourers,” Gandhi said. “If we don’t do it now, it will be fatal. Our states have a strategy but they cannot function if they are hamstrung.”
The Congress leader warned that a dangerous situation will arise if the Centre fails to provide financial support to people and industry. “In February, I had said that the situation is going to be dangerous,” he continued. “Even today, I am saying that unless we give financial assistance to small businesses and give cash injection, there will be massive damage. We have not even started the first chapter. I want to tell Modiji that the package you have announced will not do anything.”
Gandhi said that the country should be opened up systematically. “When you are opening up public transport, you need to talk to the states and experts to identify the best way of doing it,” he said, adding that he is not an expert.
The former Congress chief said that he had been visiting migrant workers to understand how they feel. “Migrant workers have a sense of hopelessness,” he said in the briefing. “They are saying they have lost trust. We made a film so that other citizens should also know how they feel. If they give me permission, I will walk to Uttar Pradesh and would help 10 to 15 migrants on the way and yes, can even carry their luggage.”
On the rising number of coronavirus cases in Maharashtra, where Congress is a part of the ruling alliance, Gandhi said there is a difference between running the government and supporting a government. “We are supporting Maharashtra government, but we are not in the key decision-making role in Maharashtra,” he said. He also urged the Centre to fully support the state as it faces a very difficult battle.
Gandhi also tweeted his question to the BJP government. “Two months ago, while announcing the lockdown, the prime minister had said that we will gain victory over coronavirus in 21 days,” he said. “It has been more than 60 days and every day, the number of patients has been rising exponentially. The lockdown has not been able to beat this virus. My question to the government is – what next?”
India on Tuesday recorded 6,535 new coronavirus cases. With this, the total number of cases reached 1,45,380 and the toll rose to 4,167 after 146 new deaths. India is now among the top 10 countries with the most number of coronavirus cases.
Come clean on border standoff with China, Gandhi tells Centre
Gandhi demanded later in the day that the Centre come clean on the the border standoff with China, the Hindustan Times reported.
“We are hearing different stories,” Gandhi said. “I don’t want to go into conjecture and it won’t be appropriate for me to comment on it without knowing the details. But it is important that the government of India makes it clear what is happening on the border so that the people can understand and they have a position.”
Tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control have heightened over the past few months. Earlier this month, there were reports of China pitching tents near river Galwan, which was also a flash point between New Delhi and Beijing during the 1962 war.
Indian and Chinese soldiers were also involved in a face-off on May 9. Just days before that, the Indian Army had alleged that Chinese soldiers were resorting to aggression along the Ladakh border, following which there was a physical fight between the two sides. On May 24, India denied that the Chinese Army had taken some of its soldiers into detention.
Gandhi also called for transparency on the dispute with Nepal. Tensions have arisen between India and Nepal over the Kalapani and Lipulekh area, which Nepal claims for itself. The tensions escalated after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a new route for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra via the Lipulekh pass earlier this month.
Nepal has repeatedly claimed that India’s decision to build the road was a breach of an agreement between the two countries. The war of words between the two countries intensified after Indian Army Chief MM Naravane alleged that Nepal objected to India’s road “at someone else’s behest”, in an oblique reference to China. Over the past few days, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has claimed that Indians travelling to Nepal without checks have been responsible for an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in his country.