The Congress, which had extended support to the NDA government on its decision to enforce a nationwide lockdown, said Thursday a shutdown of the present nature after May 3 would be even more devastating. Addressing a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, which met for the second time after the lockdown came into force on March 25, party president Sonia Gandhi said the pandemic has increased disturbingly – both in spread and speed over the last three weeks.
“The lockdown continues and all sections of our society continue to face acute hardship and distress—particularly our kisans and khet mazdoors, migrant labour, construction workers and workers in the unorganized sector. Trade, commerce and industry have come to a virtual halt and crores of livelihoods have been destroyed.
“The central government does not appear to have a clear idea on how the situation will be managed after May 3. A lockdown of the present nature after that date would be even more devastating,” she said.
Gandhi said she had written several times to the Prime Minister offering constructive cooperation and making a number of suggestions “to alleviate the suffering of both rural and urban families”.
“These suggestions had been formulated on the basis of feedback we have been receiving from different sources, including our Chief Ministers. Unfortunately, they have been acted upon only partially and in a miserly way. The compassion, large-heartedness and alacrity that should be forthcoming from the central government is conspicuous by its absence,” she said.
“Our focus must continue to be on successfully engaging with health, food security and livelihood issues. We have repeatedly urged the Prime Minister that there is no alternative to testing, trace and quarantine programme. Unfortunately, testing still remains low and testing kits are still in short supply and of poor quality. PPE kits are being provided to our doctors & healthcare workers but the number and quality is poor,” she added.
“Entitlement of food grains under the National Food Security Act have not yet reached the beneficiaries. 11 crore people who are in need of subsidized food grains, remain outside of the Public Distribution System. It should be our commitment to provide 10 kgs of food grains, 1 kg of pulses and half a Kg of sugar to each person of the family every month, in this hour of crisis.12 crore jobs have been lost in the first phase of the lockdown. Unemployment is likely to increase further as economic activity remains at a standstill. It is imperative to provide at least Rs.7,500 to each family to tide over this crisis,” she said.
Arguing that migrant labourers are still stranded, jobless and desperate to return home, she said “they must be provided with food security and a financial safety net in order to survive this period of crisis.”
“Farmers are facing serious difficulties too. The issues of weak and unclear procurement policies and disrupted supply chains need to be addressed without delay. Necessary facilities must be made available to the farmers for the next round of Kharif crops which will begin in the coming 2 months. MSMEs employ close to 11 crore personnel today. They make up for one third of the GDP. If they are to be protected from economic ruin, it is imperative that a special package be announced urgently for their survival,” she said.
She also hit out at the BJP accusing it of spreading the virus of communal prejudice and hatred.
“When we should be tackling the corona virus unitedly, the BJP continues to spread the virus of communal prejudice and hatred. Grave damage is being done to our social harmony,” she said.
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