A group of 116 former bureaucrats wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday calling for compassion in government policy on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, apart from several administrative measures to be taken.
The retired All-India and Central services officers, under the banner of Constitutional Conduct Group, wrote: “Despite warnings from the international community and our own scientists, the breathing space between the first and the second waves was not used to augment critical resources such as medical staff, hospital beds, oxygen supplies, ventilators and drugs and other medical supplies. Even more inexcusably, no advance planning was done to secure adequate stocks of vaccines, despite India being one of the major vaccine suppliers to the world.”
They said the complacency displayed by Mr. Modi and the Cabinet diverted attention from the threat and contributed to State governments and the public lowering their guard at a crucial time.
“As a result, your Atmanirbhar Bharat is today compelled to seek the help of the outside world to lessen the agony inflicted on its own people by your government,” they wrote.
The group urged the government to centralise procurement of vaccines and supply them to all State governments and other implementing agencies. They said the government must provide free universal vaccination to all citizens. They said the government should provide a monthly income support for the 2021-2022 financial year to all those in need, citing a recommendation by some economists of ₹7,000 a month per household.
The ex-bureaucrats also asked the government to remove the FCRA restrictions on NGOs so that they can avail of funds given by foreign governments and charities for COVID-related activities. They also said an all-party committee should be formed to advise the government and monitor the pandemic-related measures in the country.
“Compassion and caring have to be the cornerstones of government policy. History will judge our society, your government and, above all, you personally, on how effectively we handle this crisis,” they wrote.
Among the signatories were former Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, former Chief Economic Advisor Nitin Desai, former Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and former Health Secretary K. Sujatha Rao.