Coronavirus | We are in middle of ocean in a storm with no idea of where to go, says Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

In a severe indictment of the handling of the pandemic by the Union government, the Congress following a meeting of its working committee released a 14-point “chargesheet” accusing PM Modi of pushing the country to an unprecedented catastrophe.

“We regret to say the nation is paying a very heavy price for the thoughtlessness and unpreparedness of the NDA government to tackle the gravest disaster that has hit the country and has affected millions of families claiming 1,75,673 lives so far,” senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram said reading out a statement agreed upon by the Congress Working Committee.

Former party president Rahul Gandhi said there has been “constant declaration of victory” by the government and a sense of arrogance that has led to this situation. “The government has taken off all the warning systems and shut them down. We are in middle of the ocean in a storm and now the ship has no idea where to go,” he said at the meeting.

Other than the CWC members, the meeting that was chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi was also attended by Congress Chief Ministers Captain Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel.

‘Preferential treatment’ of States

In her opening comments, Ms. Gandhi said the government was caught off guard, despite having a year to prepare. She accused the Centre of giving “preferential treatment” to some States, saying the Congress Chief Ministers have repeatedly reached out to PM Modi and the concerned Ministers pleading for relief. “Some of them were left with only a few days of vaccine, no oxygen or ventilators. But there has been thundering silence on the part of the government. On the contrary, some other States have received preferential treatment/relief,” she said.

Instead of listening to the constructive suggestions, Ms. Gandhi said the Union Ministers have attacked the Opposition leaders. “This convoluted ‘me versus you’” debate is childish and totally unnecessary,” she said.

The CWC deplored the government for exporting the COVID-19 vaccine while the country is facing a shortage. India has already exported nearly 6.5 crore vaccine dosages. “Considering the highest infection rate in the world is in our own country, shouldn’t vaccine export be held back and priority given to protect our citizens? How is boasting about our generosity to other countries going to help the thousands of our people who are dying,” Ms. Gandhi said.

She also urged the government to reconsider its priority for vaccine candidates by reducing the immunisation age to 25 years and above especially for those in this age group with co-morbidities. The GST needs to waive off on medicine and medical equipment required to fight the virus, she said. With fresh travel restrictions and partial lockdown in many States, Ms. Gandhi said the daily wage and migrant workers are again being pushed to the brink and it’s essential that they be provided ₹6,000 per month of financial assistance.

Briefing reporters at the end of the meeting, Mr. Chidambaram said all the suggestions made during the two-and-a-half -hour long CWC meeting will be collated and sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by former PM Manmohan Singh.

Failed vaccination programme

Foremost among the 14-point chargesheet issued by the party was the government’s failure to create sufficient awareness that a waning pandemic could be a precursor to a second wave that may be more devastating than the firs . The vaccination programme also failed on several accounts

Primarily, the government, the party said, failed to grant emergency-use approval to other vaccines from the U.S., the U.K., the European Union and Japan, under a “misguided notion of atmanirbhar”. Mr Chidambaram said, now that the government has belatedly given the approval, the stocks are running low across the world and many countries like the U.S. have already placed mass pre-orders.

The production and supply of the two approved vaccines were not scaled up, the bureaucratic control over the programme caused many unnecessary hurdles. The vaccine roll out should have been left to the State governments and public and private hospitals. The government, the Congress said, “failed to prevent, or at least minimise, the wastage of vaccine doses that stands at more than 23 lakh doses today”.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 10:02:13 AM |

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