The 21-day lockdown enforced to curtail the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed at least 50 lives so far and infected nearly 2,000, may have been necessary but the unplanned manner in which it has been implemented has resulted in chaos and pain among millions of migrant labourers, the Congress said on Thursday.
During a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting held through video conferencing, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi said the country is in the midst of an unprecedented health and humanitarian crisis.
“The magnitude of the challenge before us is daunting but our resolve to overcome it must be greater,” she said.
Besides Sonia, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders also discussed the issue at the CWC.
Highlighting the plight of poor and disadvantaged, Sonia said, “In our country, those who are most vulnerable to the consequences of this pandemic are the poor and disadvantaged. We must come together for their sake and do all we can to support them through the difficult days that lie ahead,” she said.
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“It has been heart-breaking to see lakhs of people walking for hundreds of kilometres towards their villages without food or shelter. It is the duty of us all to do our utmost to lessen their suffering,” she added.
The government needs to put in place a comprehensive strategy to manage this crisis arising out of the coronavirus lockdown, she said.
Stressing on the need to provide the required support to medical professionals, Sonia said, “Personal Protection Equipment such as hazmat suits, N-95 masks, etc. must be provided to them on a war footing. Equally important are Ventilators and breathing equipment, isolation beds and designated hospitals to treat Covid-19. The onus lies on Governments to ensure that the spread of infection and casualties are not caused owing to lack of infrastructure or preparedness.”
“As far as the Covid-19 virus is concerned, there is no alternative to constant and reliable testing. This is the most effective way to combat it,” she added.
The Congress president also urged the government to make available the details of designated hospitals and facilities offered as well as information regarding the availability of medical supplies to the public.
From referring to conditions of farmers, who are trying hard to cope with the harvesting season, to the those involved with medium and small enterprises, the party interim chief urged the government to help all families who are at extreme risk.
“Farmers urgently require the availability of fertilizers and pesticides, access to easy lines of credit, forward guidance in preparing for the planting of the kharif crop. Above all proper remuneration prices are essential for them to be able to survive the present economic onslaught,” she said.
“Medium and Small-Scale Enterprises have been hit hardest by recent events. The livelihood of crores of our citizens has been imperilled. Government needs to put in place a comprehensive strategy to manage this crisis,” she added.
Sonia also mentioned those working in the unorganised sector, saying “the economic consequences of the pandemic threatens to destroy their livelihood. They are already facing tremendous hardship due to hunger and lack of health facilities. As a nation, we owe them our full and constructive support”.
Touching upon the middle class, Sonia said wage cuts, job losses across all sectors of the economy, high petrol diesel and gas prices were leading to acute distress. “If this was not enough, while EMIs have been deferred, no interest subvention or relief has been provided. This offsets the entire purpose of the deferment,” she said.
“The choices we make today will have a direct impact tomorrow on our family, neighbourhood, community, environment and nation. How effectively we meet this challenge, how we protect all sections of our society, specially the most vulnerable among us will define us for generations to come,” she added.
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