Coronavirus | Create compensation fund: Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader releases White Paper on Centre’s handling of COVID-19.

Updated - June 23, 2021 12:54 am IST

Published - June 22, 2021 04:04 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi interacts with member of the press via video conference in New Delhi on June 22, 2021.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi interacts with member of the press via video conference in New Delhi on June 22, 2021.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday claimed at a press meet that 90 % of the deaths during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic were “needless” as lives could have been saved if oxygen and medicines were available.

Releasing a white paper on the Union government’s handling of the pandemic , he said it should now prepare for a third wave by ramping up health infrastructure and vaccinating citizens on a war footing so that the virus did not get a ‘chance’ to mutate.

The white paper suggests the creation of a COVID-19 compensation fund and a commission to find out “what went wrong” in the fight against the previous waves.

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for getting emotional in one of his virtual addresses, Mr. Gandhi said,“The Prime Minister’s tears cannot wipe the tears of those who lost their loved ones. The Prime Minister’s tears did not save their lives but oxygen may have saved them. The Prime Minister didnt take this seriously. He was busy fighting elections in Bengal and his focus was in another direction”.

The purpose of the white paper was not to point fingers at the government, but to help it deal with the third wave by preparing a blueprint to react, he stressed.

In a subsequent tweet, he said the government of India “must work on our constructive inputs in the interest of the country”.

“This is a blueprint on how to react to the third wave, which is going to come. It is our intention to provide the government with information and insights on what went wrong,” he said, adding, “If the second wave was bad, the third wave would be worse”.

Discussions with experts

The white paper, he observed, was the result of extensive discussions held with experts and within the Congress structure and had four main pillars.

The first pillar talked about what went wrong and the Congress’s suggestions, including one to have a commission to probe the shortcomings; the second one focussed on developing the critical infrastructure such as oxygen supply and hospital beds; the third one highlighted financial assistance to the poorest families and the final one was about creation of a COVID-19 fund to compensate the families that have lost the breadwinner.

The corona virus was not just a biological phenomena but also an economic and social phenomena and that’s why economic support must be given to the poorest people as well as small and medium businesses, Mr. Gandhi asserted.

“The Centre is making ₹ 4 lakh crore from taxes on diesel and petrol every year. It is taking money out of the pockets of people who have lost family members. So, I don’t understand, why it can’t put some money back into their pocket,” he noted.

Pawar meeting

The white paper release coincided with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar hosting a section of Opposition leaders at his residence.

Asked to comment about it, Mr. Gandhi said, “I am not going to distract you or myself by getting into what is going on in the politics and what is going on here and there. There is a time and place to that discussion and I am happy to talk to you at that time”.

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