Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, voicing her support to the 21-day lockdown announced by the PM in view of the coronavirus outbreak, and suggested several measures such as protection of doctors, easing the supply chains and deferment of loans.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeping across the world had caused serious public health concerns, anguish and apprehensions in India, she wrote in her letter to the prime minister.
“It has imperiled lives and put at risk the lives and livelihoods of millions, particularly, the most vulnerable sections of our society. The entire nation stands as one in solidarity in the fight to halt and defeat the Corona pandemic,” Gandhi added. She noted that the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by the prime minister as a measure to fight the coronavirus was a welcome step.
“As President of the Indian National Congress, I would like to state that we will support and collaborate fully with every step taken by the Union Government to ensure the containment of the pandemic,” Gandhi said.
At this challenging and uncertain time, she said it was imperative for each one of us to rise above partisan interests and honour our duty towards our country and indeed, towards humanity. “It is in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation therefore, that I would like to suggest some measures that I believe will help us address the massive health crisis we are about to face and to ameliorate the immense economic and existential pain that vulnerable sections of our society will soon be subjected to,” the Congress chief said.
She stressed on the need to arm doctors, nurses and health workers with personal protection equipment, including N-95 masks and hazmat suits. “Let us ensure the opening and scaling up of manufacture and supply of these items so that not a single health professional faces the predicament of contracting or passing on COVID-19 owing to unavailability of Personal Protection Equipment,” Gandhi said.
Announcing a special “Risk Allowance” for doctors, nurses and health workers for a period of six months retrospectively from March 1 was imperative, she added.
Noting that many businesses and companies were laying off and retrenching large numbers of regular and temporary employees, Gandhi said, “It would be in order for the Union Government to immediately put in place broad-based social protection measures, including direct cash transfer, to these sections to tide over the period of difficulty.” She also sought a deferment of all loan recoveries up to six months, including those for farmers and the salaried class.