Leaders of 12 opposition parties on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging the government to provide free vaccines for all citizens and to procure urgent supplies from overseas as the coronavirus rampages through the country, The Indian Express reported.
The leaders also demanded that authorities suspend the Central Vista Redevelopment Project and instead divert the money to buy oxygen and vaccines, supplies of which are running dangerously low. The construction at the site in Delhi has been deemed an “essential service”, meaning work continues even during the lockdown.
Besides, the politicians once again urged the Centre to repeal the three agricultural laws which, they claimed, will help protect lakhs of protesting farmers from becoming the victims of pandemic.
The signatories to the joint letter included, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Deve Gowda, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee, DMK chief MK Stalin and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury.
The politicians blamed the central government for the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which they said had “assumed unprecedented dimensions of a human catastrophe”.
The leaders said they had repeatedly drawn the government’s attention to the various measures that were “absolutely imperative” in order to rein in the pandemic. But “unfortunately, your government has either ignored or refused all these suggestions,” they told Modi. “This only compounded the situation to reach such an apocalyptic human tragedy.”
The politicians put forward nine main demands, which they said should be undertaken “on a war-footing” by the government.
“Procure vaccines centrally from all available sources – global and domestic,” they said. “Immediately begin a free, universal mass vaccination campaign across the country. Invoke compulsory licensing to expand domestic vaccine production. Spend budgetary allocation of Rs 35,000 crores for the vaccines.”
The opposition leaders demanded giving all jobless at least Rs 6,000 per month and a free distribution of foodgrains to the needy, saying over one crore tonnes of foodgrains are currently “rotting in central godowns”.
They also urged the government to release all money held in the “unaccounted private trust fund, PM Cares” to buy more vaccines, oxygen and medical equipment required.
India has reported more than 3 lakh cases a day every day for the past three weeks, since April 22. On May 1, it hit a new record by crossing the 4-lakh mark, the highest single-day tally by any country in the world. This was surpassed on May 7, when India recorded 4.14 lakh daily cases. So far in May, India’s daily tally has crossed the 4-lakh mark on five days. Thousands have died every day, but reports allege that the government is severely undercounting Covid-19 deaths.
The brutal second wave have left the country’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse, leading to shortages in oxygens, hospital beds and medicines. The government is now trying to arrange supplies from abroad.
Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen, while morgues and crematoriums are overflowing with bodies. The surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations because of supply and delivery problems.