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Sonia terms PM’s package to COVID lockdown as ‘cruel joke on country’

Sonia terms PM’s package to COVID lockdown as ‘cruel joke on country’
May 22
21:15 2020

New Delhi, May 22 (UNI) Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday lashed out at the Narendra Modi government, saying that the government has abandoned any pretence of being democratic and all power was now concentrated in one office, the PMO.

‘The spirit of federalism, which is an integral part of our Constitution, is all but forgotten. There is no indication either if the two Houses of Parliament or the Standing Committees will be summoned to meet.

‘Friends, it is our duty to offer constructive criticism and suggestions, and be the voice of the people. It is in that spirit that we are meeting today,’ Ms Gandhi said in her opening remarks at a video conference meeting of 22 like-minded parties.

‘India was facing an economic crisis even before the first Coronavirus case was identified,’ said the Congress chief and added that demonitisation and a hasty and flawed GST were amongst it’s main causes.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda attended the meeting. However, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party did not participate in the meeting.

The initial optimism of the Prime Minister that the war against the virus would conclude in 21 days, has turned out to be a misplaced one, Ms Gandhi noted.

She said, ‘It seems that the virus is here to stay, until a vaccine is found. I am also of the view that the government was uncertain about the criteria for lockdowns, nor does it have an exit strategy. Successive lockdowns have yielded diminishing returns.

‘The government also stumbled badly on the testing strategy and the import of test kits. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to take its toll,’ she added.

Ms Gandhi said that the Indian economy has been gravely crippled and every economist of repute had advised an immediate need for a massive fiscal stimulus.

‘The Prime Minister’s announcement on May 12 of a grand Rs 20 lakh crore package – and the Finance Minister spelling out its details over the next five days, have turned out to be a cruel joke on the country,’ she charged.

The Congress president said the defining image of the pandemic has been the lakhs of migrant workers, many with children, walking hundreds of kilometers, without money, food or medicines, desperate to reach their home states.

“Apart from the plight of the migrant workers, those who have been cruelly ignored include the 13 crore families in the bottom half of the population, namely – the tenant farmers and landless agricultural workers; the laid off or retrenched workers and employees; the shopkeepers and the self-employed; the 5.8 crore out of the 6.3 crore MSMEs; and organised industries, including the large businesses, that drive our country’s growth”, she said.

Ms Gandhi further said that many opposition parties ad demanded that cash must be transferred to the poor, that free grain must be distributed to all families, that buses and trains must be arranged for the migrant workers to go back to their homes.

“Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears”, she said, adding, “far from offering succour and support, the government has embarked on a wild adventure of so-called reforms including a grand clearance sale of PSUs and repeal of labour laws”.

“There is not even a pretence of consultation with stakeholders or debate in Parliament. We deplore these unilateral moves”, Ms Gandhi criticised.

Pointing out at the economy, she said a number of renowned economists are predicting that 2020-21 will end with negative growth of up to minus 5 per cent.

“The consequences will be catastrophic”, she said while further criticising the government

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, AK Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Mallikarjun Kharge, KC Venugopal, Ahmed Patel HD Devegowda (JDS), Mamata Banerjee, Derek O’Brien (AITC); Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel (NCP); Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena); Sitaram Yechuri (CPI-M); Hemant Soren (JMM); D Raja (CPI) and MK Stalin (DMK) attended the meeting.

Besides, Sharad Yadav (LJD); Dr Omar Abdullah (NC); Tejaswi Yadav, Manoj Jha (RJD); PK Kunhalikutty (IUML); Jayant Chaudhary (RLD); Upendra Kushwaha (RLSP); Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF); Jitin Ram Manjhi (HAM); Jose K Mani (KC-M); NK Premchandran (RSP); Raju Shetty (Swabhimani Paksh); Thol Thirumavalavan (VCK-TN); Prof Kondandaram (TJS) also attended the meet.

UNI

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