New Delhi: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday slammed the Narendra Modi government over its handling of the Covid pandemic, saying “let us be absolutely clear – the system hasn’t failed… the Modi government has failed the people of our country”.
Delivering the opening remarks at a virtual meeting of the CPP (Congress Parliamentary Party), she urged the Prime Minister to “urgently call an all-party meeting” to discuss the COVID-19 situation.
“India is in the grip of a deadly health disaster. Thousands have died and millions are scrambling to access basic healthcare, life-saving medicines, oxygen, and vaccines. It is heartbreaking to see people battling for their lives in hospitals, on roads or waiting in vehicles,” Mrs Gandhi said.
“And what is the Modi government doing? Instead of alleviating suffering and pain, it has abdicated fundamental responsibilities and duties towards the people. Let us be absolutely clear – the system hasn’t failed. The Modi government has failed the people of our country,” she added.
It is not a “government versus us” battle but a battle between “Us versus corona”, Sonia said adding that the Congress demands the meetings of the standing committees. “The situation brooks no delay. Tackling this crisis requires able, calm and visionary leadership. The nation is sinking under the weight of the Modi government’s indifference and incompetence. This is a time for us to steel ourselves and rededicate ourselves in the service of our people,” Sonia Gandhi said.
Lambasting the goverment for its “flawed” vaccine policy, Sonia said that despite allocating ₹35,000 crore in Budget 2021 for “free vaccines for all”, the Modi government put the state governments under immense pressure of procuring the vaccines in the third phase. “The Modi government’s inequitable vaccination policy will exclude millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backwards Classes, as well as the poor and the marginalized. It is utterly shocking to see the Modi government abdicate its moral obligation and its sworn duty towards the people,” she said.
This morning the Supreme Court issued a sharp reminder to the centre on the supply of oxygen.
Mrs Gandhi highlighted these “failures”, including “failure to place sufficient orders for vaccines”, and criticised BJP-ruled states for cracking down on people crying out for help.
“Instead of helping desperate patients, some BJP governments have been using the state’s repressive power…. cracking down on citizen groups who are trying to help. They are also compelling social media platforms and the media to obfuscate the truth,” she added.
The centre was also criticised over its stance on vaccine pricing, after manufacturers were allowed to charge up to 700 per cent more for doses sold to private hospitals and states. The Congress has accused the centre of “vaccine profiteering” but the centre has dismissed the charge.
“As you all know, Parliament allocated ₹ 35,000 crores in the union budget to ensure free vaccines for all. Yet the Modi government has placed the burden on already stretched state governments. It has allowed differential pricing for vaccines,” Sonia Gandhi said.
Mrs Gandhi also highlighted letters written by Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the “spirit of constructive cooperation”, but said these had fallen “on deaf ears”.
All three senior leaders have written several times to the centre; Mr Gandhi did so again this morning. Manmohan Singh’s letter provoked a sharp retort from Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Sonia Gandhi called on Congress leaders and workers to unite in the fight against the novel coronavirus, and reserved special praise for the efforts of the Indian Youth Congress.
Mrs Gandhi also said the party’s performance in last month’s elections was “very disappointing”.