Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday slammed the Centre over its management of COVID-19, saying that the second wave of the pandemic has hit the country with fury and "we have been caught off guard again" despite a year to prepare.
In the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), she said the government must also reconsider its priority for vaccine candidates by reducing the immunization age to 25 years and above as also all younger persons with at-risk health disorders like asthma, angina, diabetes, kidney and liver diseases and other similar ailments.
She appealed to party workers to work for people in the hour of crisis.
"The Indian National Congress has always believed that fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is a national challenge that should be kept above party politics. We extended our hands of cooperation right from February-March, 2020. 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," she said.
"Families are being torn apart, lives and livelihoods have been lost and entire life savings depleted on healthcare. It is deeply concerning to read news reports of acute shortages of medical equipment and hospital beds. Reports from across the country speak of the scarcity of COVID-19 vaccine as also of important life-saving drugs including Remdesivir in different parts of the country," she added.
She referred to her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after meeting with party chief ministers on the COVID-19 situation.
Gandhi said the chief ministers have spoken to the Prime Minister and written to the concerned minister from time to time pleading for relief.
"Some of them were left with only a few days of vaccine, no oxygen or ventilators. But there has been thundering silence on the part of the government," she said.
She alleged that some other states have received "preferential treatment and relief".
"Instead of listening to constructive suggestions, Union Ministers were pressed into service to attack the opposition. This convoluted "me versus you" debate is childish and totally unnecessary," she said
Gandhi said after months of denial, the Central Government has now given emergency use authorization for vaccines developed elsewhere. "Better late than never," she said.
Noting that India has already exported nearly 6.5 crore Covid-19 vaccine dosages, she said considering the highest infection rate in the world in the country, "shouldn't vaccine export be held back and priority given to protect our citizens?"
"How is boasting about our generosity to other countries going to help the thousands of our people who are dying?" she asked.
Gandhi said the party chief ministers felt that as a preliminary measure, all equipment, instruments, medicines and support required to prevent and treat Covid-19 should be made free from GST.
"It is a matter of grave concern that life-saving drugs like Remdesivir and medical oxygen as also other basic supplements are subjected to GST at 12 per cent. Even basic equipment like Oxymeters and ventilators are subjected to 20 per cent GST. In the current state of affairs, this is inhuman and untenable," she said.
The Congress chief said that as the central and state governments move ahead to control the situation by resorting to partial curfews, travel restrictions, closure and lockdowns, there will be restrictions on economic activity that will hit the already beleaguered people, especially the poor and the daily wagers.
"It is, therefore, imperative to provide monthly income support and transfer an amount of Rs.6,000- in every eligible citizen's account," she said.
( With inputs from ANI )
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