Coronavirus | Congress demands common minimum relief programme

Unplanned lockdown caused ‘chaos and pain for migrant workers’, says Sonia at CWC’s first-ever virtual meeting

Updated - April 03, 2020 02:08 am IST

Published - April 02, 2020 12:27 pm IST - New Delhi

Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi

The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, on Thursday had its first-ever virtual meeting to discuss the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic , where party chief Sonia Gandhi asked the Union government to come out with a ‘common minimum relief programme’ and asserted that the unplanned lockdown caused “chaos and pain for migrant workers.”

Also read:Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants

A statement from the CWC said that “the Congress pledges to continue its unstinted support’ but pointed out the ‘grave shortcomings in the spirit of cooperation and constructive criticism’.

From going for extensive testing to setting up an economic task force, the CWC listed out several priorities for the government.

“The CWC demands that the government should immediately appoint an economic task force consisting of world renowned economists to suggest three plans: an emergency plan within one week; a short to medium-term plan within one month; and a medium to long-term plan within three months in order to protect and revive the economy,” All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary KC Venugopal and party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said at an online media interaction.

In her opening remarks to the CWC, Ms Gandhi said, “The 21-day national lockdown may have been necessary but the unplanned manner in which it has been implemented has caused chaos and pain in the lives of millions of migrant workers all over India. It has been heartbreaking to see lakhs of people walking for hundreds of kilometres towards their villages without food or shelter.”

The CWC stressed on the urgent need to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers, relief to farmers who have been hit just ahead of the Rabi harvesting season and to small and medium entreprenuers, income support to informal workers and protection to middle class people from wage cuts and job losses.

“I urge the Central government to prepare and publish a common minimum relief programme. This is vital and will help alleviate several of the concerns that currently afflict all people,” she said, adding that “COVID-19 doesn't distinguish between ideology, religion, caste, age or gender.”

While former Prime MinisterManmohan Singh talked about the nation rallying as one to fight COVID-19, former party chief leader Rahul Gandhi, who had so far kept away from CWC meetings, talked about an Indian model to deal with the crisis.

Rahul for India specific strategy

“At the Congress CWC meeting today I emphasised the urgent need to devise an India specific strategy to combat the #COVID19 Pandemic & for Congress workers & leaders to help soften the blow by assisting the poor & the most vulnerable sections of our society in every possible way,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted.

Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra talked about migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh facing the maximum brunt of the lockdown.

Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram talked about the inadequacy of the government’s first financial action plan (FAP). “The government must immediately shed its inhibitions and timidity and announce that it will fund the battle with Rs 5-6 lakh crore,” he said.

Party Chief Ministers including Punjab's Captain Amarinder Singh, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh's Bhupesh Baghel and Puduchhery’s V. Narayansamy briefed on the steps taken by their governments to handle the situation.

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