Slamming the Centre for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Congress on Tuesday said the absence of a coherent strategy to reduce fatalities, increase testing and contact-tracing of patients reporting confirmed with the virus even after four months is astonishing.
Addressing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, party president Sonia Gandhi said the Indian economy is now hurtling toward a recession for the first time in 42 years.
“The pandemic is not being tackled with the courage, magnitude and effort needed,” former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
While former Union Finance minister P Chidambaram briefed the CWC about the economic situation, former Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke on the pandemic.
Sonia said “mismanagement of the pandemic will be recorded as one of the most disastrous failures of the (Narendra) Modi government”. She argued that the need of the hour is a massive fiscal stimulus, putting money directly in the hands of the poor, protecting and nurturing the MSMEs, and stimulating demand.
“Instead,” she said, “the government announced a hollow financial package that had a fiscal component of less than 1 per cent of GDP. The government has added insult to injury by mercilessly raising petrol and diesel prices for 17 consecutive days at a time when world prices of crude have fallen.
“The result is that a sliding economy is now hurtling toward a recession for the first time in 42 years.”
Sonia said, “I am afraid there will be high unemployment, falling incomes and wages, and lower investment. Recovery is likely to take a long time, and that too only if the government corrects its course and adopts sound economic policies.”
The CWC also hit out at the government for the “repeated and unjust” increases in petrol and diesel prices and excise duty, and accused the government of “profiteering by fleecing people”.
On the pandemic, its resolution said the Covid-19 curve is rising exponentially, thereby testing the health infrastructure and overburdening health workers. “And the Union government seems to have abandoned its responsibilities and passed the buck to states, without offering adequate support,” it stated. The CWC asked the government to cap prices for treatment and ensure price control and easy availability of drugs that are approved as lines of treatment.
The CWC said even after four months, there is no nationwide data on available hospital beds and ventilators, and no clarity on future capacity planning. “There is absolutely no sense of urgency or a credible plan to expand our beleaguered health workforce with quick recruitment of young doctors, nurses and health workers,” it said. The PM CARES fund, it said, “continues to be woefully under-utilised and administered without any transparency whatsoever.”
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