NEW DELHI, 17 Apr: The Congress on Saturday launched an all-out attack on the central government over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, accusing it of “colossal mismanagement,” and cautioned of an “unprecedented catastrophe” unless urgent corrective measures are taken.
The party also charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi with “shocking callousness” for addressing rallies in poll-bound West Bengal “instead of staying in Delhi” to handle the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
The highest decision-making body of the Congress, chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi, met here virtually to discuss the Covid-19 situation in the country and suggest measures to the government to tackle the crisis.
Accusing the Modi government of “gross unpreparedness” and “ad hocism” in managing the crisis, Congress president Sonia Gandhi suggested reducing the immunization age to 25 years, especially those with comorbidities, and providing income support to people.
At the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), she also called for making all equipment, medicines and instruments required for treating Covid-19 free of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Addressing a press conference after the meet that lasted over two-and-a-half hours, Congress’ senior spokesperson P Chidambaram said concrete suggestions made by CWC members would be sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through a letter by former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
“We charge the central government with colossal mismanagement of the war against the pandemic,” a CWC statement said, while accusing the central government of failing on 14 different fronts in handling the pandemic.
“We regret to say that the nation is paying a very heavy price for the thoughtlessness and unpreparedness of the NDA government to tackle the gravest disaster that has hit the country and has affected millions of families claiming 1,75,673 lives so far,” it said.
The working committee meeting, attended by Manmohan Singh and former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, besides general secretaries and other senior leaders, said it is a shame that the country with the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing capacity has earned the odium of being among the most affected countries.
“With a heavy heart, we caution the people that unless urgent corrective measures are taken, the nation faces an unprecedented catastrophe. May wisdom prevail,” the CWC statement said.
Sonia Gandhi also accused the Centre of giving preferential treatment to some states and maintaining “thundering silence” on requests of states ruled by the Congress and other opposition parties.
“Taking on these challenging times as Indians rather than as political opponents will be true rajadharma,” she said at the meeting.
She said the Congress has always believed that fighting the Covid-19 pandemic is a national challenge that should be kept above party politics, and expressed hope that its suggestions would be considered in the spirit of true democratic traditions.
Noting that the Congress has extended cooperation, she said, “We cannot, however, lose sight of the fact that the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the country with fury. Despite a year to prepare, we have, regrettably, been caught off guard again.”
Instead of listening to the constructive suggestions of the opposition, union ministers are pressed into service to attack leaders of opposition for giving those suggestions, Gandhi said.
“This convoluted ‘me versus you’ debate is childish and totally unnecessary,” she asserted.
Gandhi said while taking stock of the situation in Congress-ruled states, “what transpired was the gross unpreparedness and avoidable ad hocism on part of the Narendra Modi government in foreseeing, evaluating and managing the crisis.”
The CWC alleged that that the government failed to create sufficient public awareness about the second wave of the pandemic, and failed to rapidly scale up the production and supply of the two approved vaccines in India by providing sufficient funds and other concessions.
The CWC has asked the Congress workers to help the poor and save the lives of people. It has also asked the state units to set up helplines and control rooms to help the needy, AICC general secretary (organization) KC Venugopal said.
Asked whether he would favour a nationwide lockdown, Chidambaram said it was for the prime minister to take a call on this.
“Every state is increasing restrictions. If every state is in lockdown, I’m concerned about the economy, lives and livelihood…,” he said. (PTI)