Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech addressing the steep rise in coronavirus cases in India.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said Modi announced the “abdication of his responsibility” in the televised address to the country, while Congress described his speech as “empty talk”.
CPI(M) Secretary General Sitaram Yechury said there was not a single word from the prime minister on what his government was doing to handle the serious health emergency in the country.
“Not one word on meeting this acute shortage that is claiming a large number of lives,” Yechury said. “Not one word on increasing vaccine supplies, after wasting a whole year in not procuring them.”
In his speech, Modi had acknowledged that there was a scarcity of medical oxygen across the country. “This subject is being worked on rapidly and with full sensitivity,” he had said, without providing more details. “The central, state governments, private sector – everyone is trying their best to get oxygen to every Covid-19 patient who needs it right now.”
Yechury also accused Modi of shifting the burden on to people and state governments to take care of themselves. “No free transportation for migrant workers, as last year’s tragedy looms large to repeat,” he added. “No monetary relief or free food for suffering people.”
The CPI(M) leader said Modi asking states to enforce a lockdown only as a last resort was “an admission of disaster” that the countrywide shutdown had caused last year, PTI reported.
“He [Modi] sounded defensive when he said that lockdown was not an option,” Yechury added. “He seemed to blame the states for the lockdown and it felt like he realised that the manner in which the lockdown was announced by him last year and its implementation thereof was a mistake.”
Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken also alleged Modi relinquished his responsibility in a time of crisis and put the onus of saving India on non-governmental organisations and the youth.. “He [Modi] put the onus of whatever little possible on state governments, that too by practically advising them to not implement lockdown,” Maken added.
Maken said that in the middle of a “full-blown catastrophe”, Modi was expected to tell the country what the government was doing to streamline medical supplies. “The nation is going through an unprecedented and deadly crisis,” the Congress leader added. “There are no beds in hospitals, those hospitalised are not able to get life-saving drugs or something as basic as oxygen.”
The Congress leader said that patients were dying on the streets as crematoriums could not accommodate them. He added that migrant workers were being forced to return to their hometowns as multiple states were imposing lockdowns and curfews.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’ Brien said: “Words words words. You lust for power and then fool people with just words. Enough. Where are the vaccines.”
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah interpreted Modi’s address as an admission that the centralised response to the first wave of the coronavirus did not work. “Wave two response is now a state problem, further decentralised to mohala committees,” he tweeted. “What a difference a year makes. “
India is currently battling a second wave of the pandemic. On Wednesday alone, the country reported 2.95 lakh new cases and 2,023 deaths, in another record high since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The country now has 1,56,16,130 cases. Its toll rose to 1,82,553.
Several states across the country, including national Capital Delhi, are running out of oxygen as coronavirus patients crowd its overburdened hospitals. Hospitalised Covid-19 patients who are seriously ill often need supplemental oxygen to increase its supply in the blood and lungs.
Social media has been full of appeals from those searching for beds, ventilators and medicines for friends and family.