The Congress on Tuesday (June 23) accused the Centre of abandoning its responsibilities in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and passing the buck to the states, with party chief Sonia Gandhi saying the “mismanagement” of the pandemic is one of the “most disastrous” failures of the Modi government.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) passed a resolution on the COVID-19 situation after a meeting, which was attended by the party’s top brass, including Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former party president Rahul Gandhi.
“It is shocking that the country has registered the last one lakh positive cases in just eight days and there is a nationwide spike of about 15,000 new cases daily,” the resolution noted.
In her opening remarks at the meeting, Sonia Gandhi said the pandemic hit India in February and the party offered its total support to the government and to “lockdown 1.0”.
Phase one of the COVID-19-induced nationwide lockdown was imposed from March 25 and subsequently there were three phases of the shutdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Unlock-1 was initiated in the country from June 8 under which lockdown rules were relaxed to a great extent.
“Within weeks, it was apparent that the government was totally unprepared to manage the fallout of a lockdown. The result was the greatest humanitarian crisis witnessed since 1947-48. Millions of migrant (guest) workers, daily wage earners and self-employed were devastated. One hundred and thirty million jobs are estimated to have been lost,” the Congress chief said.
“Crores of MSMEs have been shut, perhaps forever. Despite the assurances of the prime minister who centralised all authority in his hands, the pandemic continues to rage,” she said.
Expressing deep concern over India’s COVID-19 infection curve rising exponentially, instead of flattening, the CWC said health experts suggest that peak of the infection has not even been reached.
The grave deficiencies in the health infrastructure have been exposed and the promised “peak” is nowhere in sight, Sonia Gandhi said.
“Actually, the people have been left to protect themselves as best as possible. The mismanagement of the pandemic will be recorded as one of the most disastrous failures of the Modi government,” she said.
In the resolution, the CWC said the Union government seems to have abandoned its responsibilities and passed the buck to the states, without offering adequate support.
“Four months into the pandemic, it is astonishing that the Modi government has not unveiled a coherent strategy on reducing fatalities, increasing testing, contact tracing and ensuring social distancing and safety for the most vulnerable population,” the resolution said.
There is no nationwide data on available hospital beds and ventilators, and no clarity on future capacity planning, it said.
There is absolutely no sense of urgency or a credible plan to expand the beleaguered health workforce with quick recruitment of young doctors, nurses, and other health workers, the resolution said.
Attacking the government, the Congress also alleged that the PM CARES fund continues to be “woefully under-utilised” and administered without any transparency whatsoever.
Asserting that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, the CWC urged the Centre to provide immediate relief for those paying exorbitant prices for COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals by capping the price.
Claiming that the testing protocols set by the ICMR keep changing, it said the recent introduction of antigen testing with lower sensitivity than RT-PCR tests has only added to the policy confusion.
Neither is there consistency nor transparency on testing data, the party alleged.
“To be atmanirbhar (self-reliant) as a nation and to combat COVID-19, the Modi government must draw upon this great nation’s strength, not undermine it,” the Congress said.
In another resolution, the CWC also expressed shock and concern over the repeated and “unjust” increase in petrol and diesel prices as also excise duty over the last three months of the lockdown.
“The central government is profiteering by fleecing the people of India. This is illustrated starkly by the fact that the central government has increased the excise duty on petrol from ₹9.20 per litre and on diesel from ₹3.46 per litre in 2014 to an additional ₹23.78 per litre on petrol and an additional ₹28.37 per litre on diesel,” the resolution said.
The CWC condemned these hikes and reminded the government of its “Raj Dharma”, the resolution said.
The party also urges the central government to consider a direct cash transfer to the poorest of the poor.