June 23, 2021 4:19:04 am
ALLEGING “MISMANAGEMENT” by the Centre in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday that “90 per cent” of the deaths in the second wave were “needless” and the total toll was “at least five-six times” more than the official estimate.
He accused the government of “hiding the truth”, and asked it to “appoint an independent public commission to enumerate all Covid-19 related deaths”.
Releasing a “white paper” prepared by the Congress on the government’s “disastrous” performance during the first and second waves, Rahul urged the Centre to prepare for the third wave by improving medical infrastructure and increasing the pace of vaccination.
“It is pretty clear that the third wave is coming, and I would even go so far as to say that you might even have waves after the third wave, because this virus is continuously mutating and changing form… So, it is important that the government prepares itself for what is going to come,” he said.
“In the second wave in India, 90 per cent of the people died needlessly. I have spoken to many doctors. And all of them said… if you look at the needless deaths… which means the people who should not have died… who would not have died had they got support… the biggest reason for that (was) oxygen limitation. We could not provide them oxygen on time,” he said.
“So the needless deaths… the Prime Minister’s tears will not be able to wipe away the tears of those families. All those families know that (when) one of the family members died… the Prime Minister was not there… the Prime Minister’s tears could not save them….but oxygen could have saved them,” he said.
“But the Prime Minister did not take it seriously. He was fighting elections in Bengal and his focus was in a different direction. And the whole country knows that,” he said.
He said there was no doubt that the government was “hiding the truth” on the actual toll. “There is no question about that. My estimate is that the number of deaths is at least 5-6 times of (what) the government is saying, but it is not productive for us to now get into the discussion of how many people died. Of course, the compensation is critical and there are ways in which we can figure out that number, but the discussion must not be about the number, the discussion must be about… what we are going to do next,” he said.
In its “white paper”, the Congress said the government should ensure accurate collection of case and mortality data. “News reports and scientific analyses have shown that there is massive undercounting of deaths. The Union and state governments must ensure that the data is reliable and made accessible to experts. The Union government must appoint an independent public commission to enumerate all Covid-19 related deaths,” it said.
“India needs an exhaustive and independent public inquiry into the Union government’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to avoid a repeat of such deaths and devastation in the future,” it said.
Saying that vaccination was the only solution, Rahul said: “This is a matter of life and death. The government must not view Indian states as BJP states versus Opposition states… All states must be provided with the same assistance… with the same quantity of vaccines required,” he said.
He said vaccinating 50-70 per cent of the population was not a solution. “So, this idea that there are some BJP states and there are some Congress states and we have to prove that BJP states are vaccinating better, which is embedded in the way the government is acting, is not a good idea, it is a dangerous idea for the country,” he said.
He said the “white paper” was based on “four pillars”: what went wrong during the first and second waves; preparation for the third wave, including developing critical infrastructure like oxygen; an economic assistance package to assist the poorest and weakest sections; and a Covid compensation fund.
Saying that “mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic has been independent India’s gravest governance failure”, the party has asked the Centre to take political and administrative measures, including a national level, all-party committee, to review measures to contain the pandemic, improve coordination with state governments, and collaborate with civil society.
Meanwhile, reacting to the Congress’s “white paper”, the BJP accused Rahul of “playing politics” over the Covid crisis.
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