Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a telephonic conversation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and sought her party’s cooperation in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the opposition party on Sunday pointed out shortcomings in the government’s response to the outbreak.
Senior party leader Anand Sharma said that “theatrics is not a substitute for concrete action” and demanded that India commit 5 to 6 per cent of its GDP as a stimulus to restart the economy.
Addressing the media, Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev said lighting lamps alone will not help win the war against coronavirus and demanded answers from the government on the safety of health workers. She claimed there is a shortage of adequate protective gear, and maintained that lifting of the nationwide lockdown should not be done in an unplanned manner, as it was implemented.
Sharma focused more on the economy, arguing that “time is running out to prevent a grave and prolonged economic crisis.” He said: “Bold measures and sector-specific stimulus alone can save the economy from threatened collapse. The first package was small and far too inadequate for economic revival. Fiscal deficit and inflation cannot be a consideration. These should be kept in abeyance. India should commit 5-6 per cent of its GDP for a stimulus to be meaningful and effective. Extraordinary situation calls for more than ordinary response.”
Sharma pointed out that the US and major European countries have announced huge economic packages, which include cash transfers, central bank cash injections, spending pledges and loan guarantees. Arguing that revival of economic activity is now essential, as millions have lost wages and jobs, he asked the government to announce a staggered “unlocking plan for factories and businesses” and restoration of interstate movement of cargo containers.
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