Covid-19 is a “scary disease”, but it is “dangerous” and “fatal” only to 1 or 2 per cent of the population such as the elderly and people with other health problems, Rahul Gandhi said on Friday, and asked the Prime Minister to take aggressive steps to root out the fear associated with the disease.
Lifting the lockdown would have no impact if there was an atmosphere of fear in the country, the former Congress president said.
The BJP retorted that the Prime Minister had been consulting with chief ministers and subject experts in dealing with the pandemic, and asked Rahul to act with “wisdom and practicality” to “fight the biggest calamity in human history under the able guidance” of Modi.
The lockdown has unleashed an economic tsunami of unimaginable proportions, and the economy cannot move again without a massive economic stimulus from the central government, Rahul said. He asked the government to immediately announce a financial package for small and medium businesses, extend income support of Rs 7,500 to at least 13 crore of the poorest households, double the man-days of guaranteed work under MGNREGA, and offer wage protection and credit guarantee schemes, and interest subsidy facilities to MSMEs and big businesses.
The government, Rahul said, must put money in the hands of migrant workers and the poor without delay, and be transparently on its strategy for exiting the lockdown. “It is important that the government tells the people that these are the criteria that we are going to be using. And if these criteria are met then we are going to open,” he said.
The novel coronavirus disease, Rahul said, “is dangerous for certain groups of people. It is absolutely dangerous for older people, people with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, chronic lung infection. But other than. it is not a dangerous disease”.
He said: “Covid was not a deadly disease before the lockdown. After lockdown it has become a deadly disease in the minds of the people. This is a misconception. Covid is a deadly disease but for 1 or 2 per cent of the people. And it is our duty to extend complete protection to that 1 or 2 per cent. And not let even one among them get infected. But it is also our duty to tell the country, make them understand that it is not a fatal disease for 99 per cent of the people.
“This the Prime Minister should aggressively do — we all should aggressively do — because there is an atmosphere of fear in India and in other countries. If we want to lift the lockdown, then we will have to root out this atmosphere of fear. Otherwise, people will not come out even if you open up.” Reopening the economy, Rahul said, would be a massive transition that would require coordination between the state governments, central government, district magistrates and the people of India. The Centre should view states as partners,” he said.
“We need one strong Indian leader, be it a DM or a farmer, at every level. we need to tackle the problem and finish it at the local level,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)