Seeking transparency in the Centre’s strategy to reopen the country as well the economy, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Friday said there will be a “calamity” if the fight against the coronavirus pandemic remains centralised.
While addressing reporters via video-conference on the observations made by the party’s internal committee, Gandhi said: “We need to decentralise power in dealing with the virus. If we keep this fight in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), we will lose. The Prime Minister must devolve power. If we centralise, there will be a calamity. The Prime Minister has to trust chief ministers and chief ministers have to trust district magistrates.”
The Congress leader’s remarks came amid complaints by Congress-ruled states that they were being pushed into fiscal distress in the absence of the Centre providing them resources to fight the pandemic.
— Congress (@INCIndia) May 8, 2020
“Our chief ministers are complaining that the coronavirus zones are being decided by the Centre. This should be done by local governments,” he said.
Calling upon the government to immediately put money into the hands of the poor and provide a financial package to the industry to help revive the economy, the former Congress chief said, “We need to understand how they plan to open the lockdown and what will be the criteria for it. Migrants need support and money now, and today. Micro, small and medium enterprises need help immediately, not tomorrow.”
He added that the government must take quick measures or “job losses will turn into a tsunami”.
“The Centre must immediately transfer Rs 65,000 crore into the bank accounts of poor and migrant population to give them financial support in these difficult times. There has to be a conversation between states and Centre to oversee this,” he said.
Gandhi, who has been holding constant talks with public intellectuals on the pandemic and its subsequent repercussions, also highlighted the need to “reduce the pain of the migrant labourers”.
“If you are on daily wages, you don’t have a choice but you (the government) have to give them a choice. A conversation between states have to take place with empathy towards migrants and the Centre has to oversee them. The pain has to be reduced,” he told reporters.
“We are in a state of emergency. The idea that we can let our job creators drown is not feasible. We have to build a wall for them so that they can fight what is coming. We have to build a financial support from them,” he added.
The Congress leader also said that novel coronavirus is not a deadly disease and the government must alleviate the fears associated with it as part of measures to lift the nationwide lockdown.
“The lockdown doesn’t mean switching on and off the key. It requires a psychological change. The opening itself is a transition,” he said.
Further explaining the same, he said, “The disease is dangerous for a few categories of people. It is dangerous for old people, for those who have diabetes, hypertension etc. But other than that, it is not a dangerous disease. So we have to make a psychological change in the mind of the people. Currently, people are very scared. The government, if it wants to open up, will have to turn this fear into a sense of confidence.”
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