The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, on Thursday said the tragic spectacle of thousands of migrant workers taking a long walk back to their villages in the wake of the 21-day nationwide lockdown will “forever remain a blot” on the Modi government.
The CWC, at its meeting held through video-conferencing and chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, criticised the government for “not giving any thought to the deteriorating” economic situation in the wake of the pandemic, and demanded a task force consisting of world renowned economists to suggest measures to deal with the crisis.
It also pledged to continue its unstinted support to the Centre and state governments in dealing with the situation.
“The CWC is of the opinion that the government has not given any thought whatsoever to the deteriorating economic situation. This does not brook any delay. Many useful ideas are on the table,” read the CWC statement.
“The CWC demands that the government should immediately appoint an economic task force consisting of world renowned economists to suggest three plans – firstly an emergency plan within one week, secondly a short to medium term plan within one month and thirdly a medium to long term plan within three months in order to protect and revive the economy,” it said.
The CWC said it is conscious that India and the whole world face an unprecedented crisis due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 that has the potential to claim hundreds of thousands of lives and devastate the world’s economy.
“From the day the first person tested positive in India, the Congress has extended its total support to the central and state governments in their efforts to deal with the grave and unfolding circumstances. The Congress pledges to continue its unstinted support,” it added.
The statement said the order of priorities before the government should be to contain the spread of virus, medical treatment to the infected persons, livelihood support to the poor and maintenance of supply of essentials and measures to deal with a sliding economy.
“It is in a spirit of co-operation and constructive criticism that the CWC wishes to point out that the measures taken by the Modi government so far leave much to be desired and there are several grave shortcomings. It is imperative that we address these shortcomings,” it added.
“On containment and treatment, the government has erred in adopting a strategy of limited testing. A lockdown or any restriction is futile unless accompanied by extensive testing. Inexplicably, we have not put to full use even our limited testing capacity. The flawed strategy must be revised and testing must be scaled up urgently.”
The CWC urged the government to undertake massive production and procurement of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), Hazmat suits, body overalls, goggles, gloves, N-95 masks and ventilators.
“Medical infrastructure should be expanded on a war footing with more isolation wards, hospital beds, testing labs, quarantine facilities etc. Supply of drugs must be maintained at pre-February levels and all drug stores must be directed and facilitated to function for an adequate number of hours a day.”
The CWC regretted that the government has “miserably failed” to provide adequate livelihood support to the poor.
“The Financial Action Plan I announced on March 25 was miserly, hopelessly inadequate and left out several vulnerable sections. It failed to instill confidence in the poor and, as a result, we witnessed the tragic spectacle of thousands of migrant workers desperately trying to go back to their villages by any means whatsoever, including on foot. That spectacle will forever remain a blot on the Modi government.”
The CWC demanded that the government should immediately announce FAP II that will reassure the poor people and also provide adequate financial support to the sections that were left out including tenant farmers, landless agricultural workers, MGNREGA workers, laid-off industrial workers and male Jan Dhan account holders.
“It is the foremost duty of the government to ensure shelter, rent relief, wages and food to the poor. The NYAY scheme put forward by the Congress offers a useful model that can be adapted and implemented,” the statement said.
The party said supply chains to crores of people, especially those living in towns, cities and remote villages have been severely disrupted by poor preparation and thoughtless orders and notifications.
“If people have to survive in a lockdown, these supply chains must be immediately restored and maintained throughout the period of restrictions,” it added.
The Congress urged the government to initiate measures such as cutting GST rates for a period of three months on goods of mass consumption, mandatorily postponing tax payment deadlines and EMI dates to June 30 and beyond, restoring the thoughtless reduction in interest rates on PPF and small savings.
“Each step, though small, will bring significant comfort to the people in these difficult and stressful times.”
The CWC noted that all the measures will require massive resources to the tune of Rs 5-6 lakh crore or USD 70-80 billion. “Anything less will be totally insufficient and may actually exacerbate the situation. These resources can be found within the country and largely within the expenditure budgets of central and state governments for 2020-21.”
The CWC said eminent economists have supported the party’s assertion that “we must do whatever it takes” and find the resources to fund the multi-dimensional effort to save the people and the country.
The party further urged the government to ensure the return of thousands of Indian students, Indian citizens and sailors stranded abroad to their homes after appropriate testing.
It said majority of state governments have complained of inadequate financial resources in absence of the Centre not releasing state’s share in the GST, and demanded its immediate release to enable them to fight Covid-19 more effectively.
Published at Thu, 02 Apr 2020 01:16:22 +0000