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COVID-19: Opposition seeks financial package, govt says pressing panic button not good

Raising the issue in Lok Sabha, Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, prices of essential commodities have risen.

Written by Harikishan Sharma , Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi | March 21, 2020 4:33:07 am
narendra modi, pm modi on coronavirus, parliament coronavirus, budget session of parliament, coronavirus india PM Narendra Modi at Parliament House Friday. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

With the Opposition demanding a financial package to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, the government on Friday said that the infection has not yet spread into the community and “pressing the panic button is not at all good”.

Raising the issue in Lok Sabha, Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, prices of essential commodities have risen. Food items are out of stock, masks are not available and the market has been captured by hoarders and middlemen, he said.

“Therefore, the government must declare a financial package that will include compensation for wage losses of employees who earn daily wages such as taxi and auto drivers, agricultural labourers, construction workers, security guards, watchmen, domestic helps, street food vendors, cart pullers and others,” he said.

Reacting sharply, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi said, “From day one, the government of India, under the leadership of the honourable Prime Minister, has taken many steps. I just want to say that it is not good to spread panic by saying that essential items are not available. Creating panic and pressing the panic button is not at all good. This is a national and international crisis.” Annoyed with the comment, the Congress MPs staged a walkout.

Earlier in the day, as soon as the House met, Chowdhury raised the issue of price rise of essential items, saying the “markets are on fire” after the Prime Minister’s address. However, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla did not let him speak. The Congress also demanded that the Prime Minister should come to Parliament.

The BSP’s Ritesh Pandey asked why more people are not being tested. In response, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, “There is a very well-defined protocol and scientific advice about who needs to be tested. Right now, the infection in this country is getting transmitted from one person to another. It has not yet spread into the community.”

During Zero Hour, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said, “The world is facing challenges due to coronavirus outbreak and India is also taking steps to deal with it. The Prime minister has addressed the nation and spoken about precautionary steps. The Prime Minister has appealed for Janata Curfew on March 22 and the House stands with him on this.”

The Rajya Sabha, meanwhile, again discussed on Friday if Parliament should continue to function. Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu said that TMC’s Sukhendu Sekhar Ray had sought leave of absence from the House “stating that… he has decided to remain in self-quarantine at home for the remaining part of the ongoing Budget Session”.

While Ray was granted leave of absence, several MPs said they too are vulnerable. Deputy Leader of Opposition Anand Sharma said the government had issued a notification. “… all people above the age of 65, as per the government’s notification, should not come out. I am above 65. Hon. Chairman is above 65. There are so many Members above 65. So, what example is Parliament setting about the respect for the laws of the land and government’s notification?” he said. Naidu responded, “God bless you! Nothing would happen to me and to you.”

Here’s a quick coronavirus guide for you to stay updated: Who all should be tested for Covid-19 and when? | How should you quarantine yourself? | How often (and how) should you clean your home? | What is the Janata Curfew announced by PM Modi? | Who are restricted from coming to India, and from when? | How long can the virus live on surfaces or in air around you? | Still more Coronavirus Q&A Explained news here

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