COVID battle transcends political differences, Modi govt must call all party meeting on it: Sonia Gandhi

The COVID battle transcends political differences and everyone has to fight it together as a nation, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party

Congress president Sonia Gandhi (File photo)
Congress president Sonia Gandhi (File photo)

NH Web Desk

The COVID battle transcends political differences and everyone has to fight it together as a nation, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party on Friday.

The Modi government, she said, must urgently call an all-party meeting on the COVID-19 situation. She also demanded that standing committees be convened to ensure collective action and accountability to combat the pandemic better.

Addressing her party's MPs for the first time since the election results to four states and one union territory, she said the CWC would meet soon to review the outcome.

Here is full of Congress President Sonia Gandhi's Speech at Congress Parliamentary Party(CPP) Meeting:

"Friends, we have gathered here under extraordinary circumstances. 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, waiting in vehicles, far too many for want of any medical help at all.

And what is the Modi government doing? Instead of alleviating their suffering and pain, it has abdicated its fundamental responsibilities and duties towards the people.

The government’s own Empowered Groups and its National Task Force for COVID-19 had warned the Modi government that a second wave was imminent and urged it to plan and prepare for it.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and opposition parties had raised serious concerns regarding our preparedness. Yet, earlier this year the Prime Minister arrogantly boasted that he had defeated the pandemic and his party obediently felicitated him for his so-called success.

Ignoring expert advice, the Modi government refused to strengthen the supply-chains for oxygen, medicine, and ventilators. It failed to place sufficient orders for vaccines in time to meet the needs of our people. Instead, it consciously chose to allocate thousands of crores for non-essential projects that have nothing to do with the peoples’ well-being.

Instead of helping desperate patients, some BJP governments have been using the state’s repressive power to arrest people merely for crying out for help. They are cracking down on citizen groups who are trying their best to help. They are also compelling social media platforms and the media to obfuscate the truth and ignore the pleas of desperate citizens.

As you all know, Parliament had allocated Rs. 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. It has refused to enforce compulsory licensing to increase the vaccines production.

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.

Let us be absolutely clear -- the system hasn’t failed. The Modi government has been unable to constructively channelize India’s many strengths and resources. I say this categorically - India is crippled by a political leadership today that has no empathy for the people. The Modi Government has failed the people of our country.

You are all well aware of the very many letters Dr. Manmohan Singh-ji, former Congress President Rahul-ji, and I have written to the Prime Minister in a spirit of constructive cooperation, giving very pointed and practical suggestions for action. I have personally been in touch with our Chief Ministers. They too have spoken to the Prime Minister and other Ministers concerned about the seriousness of the situation in their States. Some of our colleagues have been regularly and quite effectively raising legitimate concerns and questions in the media. Unfortunately, these helpful initiatives have fallen on deaf ears. The government has made no meaningful response and continues to believe that it alone has the answers.

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.

Our party organization, workers and leaders are working tirelessly in every capacity to alleviate the chaos, pain and the indignity our people are suffering. They are contributing their time and resources to ensure that people are able to access oxygen supplies, medicines, ventilators, and hospital beds. Free ambulance services have started in some places, facilities for tele-counselling by doctors have been set up and helplines have been established. The Youth Congress efforts have been particularly noteworthy. I am sure all of you are also involved in your respective areas in extending help and assistance to the needy.

Since the government has failed to deliver these essential services and supplies on adequate scale, it is imperative that we enhance and streamline these efforts. The AICC’s COVID control room is reaching out with a detailed blueprint. Similar COVID relief control rooms have been set up at the State level. Efforts must be made to organize ambulances, temporary beds, oxygen concentrators and necessary medicines. In our party, there are many resourceful persons. I urge them to come forward and render whatever help possible through our states’ Relief Control room or on their own.

The Congress Party firmly believes that fighting Covid is not a “Government versus Us” battle but a “Us versus Corona” battle. This battle transcends political differences. We have to fight this battle together as a nation. In that spirit, as a first step, I believe that the Modi government must urgently call an all-Party meeting on the Covid-19 situation. The Congress Party also demands that standing committees must be convened to ensure collective action and accountability to combat the pandemic better.

Kharge-ji could bring to the notice of the Presiding Officer the Report of Standing Committee on Health presented in October 2020 and demand that he take action on the recommendations of the Report.

Friends, in closing, may I on your behalf congratulate Mamata-ji and Thiru M.K. Stalin and the Left for their handsome victories. Most unfortunately, our own performance in all the states was very disappointing and if I may say, unexpectedly so. The CWC is meeting shortly to review the results but it goes without saying that we as a party collective must draw the appropriate lessons from this setback in a spirit of humility and honesty."

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