NEW DELHI: The Congress on Sunday slammed the lack of preparedness by the Modi government before announcing the “thoughtless” lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak, alleging it was making “hasty” decisions in the same manner as it did during the 2017 demonetisation exercise.
“Unfortunately, history is repeating itself today,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
“The lockout was announced in the same way as the hasty demonetisation was done. Please do not make such decisions,” he said at a press briefing via a video link, referring to the mass exodus of migrant labourers being reported from several parts of the country, including Delhi.
However, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said India must remain strong and united in the fight against the virus and it’s everyone’s “national duty” to stand behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Endorsing Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s call to rise above sectarian divisions, Sharma said, “Our response must be national and uniform not a fragmented one”.
“PM Shri Narendra Modi leads the national campaign and chief ministers are the commanders in states. Supporting their effort is a national duty,” he tweeted.
But Sharma too raised the issue of lack of preparedness and the exodus of migrant labourers.
“The fight against COVID19 is a national challenge. It is a matter of concern that central and state administration were not fully prepared to sensitively deal with the fallout of closure of businesses and the forced movement of migrant workers following loss of work and wages,” he said.
Sharma called for providing urgent relief, food and shelter to the labourers, adding it was “heart rending to see our citizens suffer”. “Each one of us should help and contribute to the best of our ability.”
At the press briefing, Singhvi asked what was the rationale for social distancing when millions of people were on streets. “Should we not have prepared for this contingency in advance and it is not as if it could not be seen,” he asked.
On March 19, the prime minister announced a ‘Janta curfew’ but no announcement was made for next four days, he said.
“If you could give four days notice to applaud the Covid warriors, what was lacking that you could not give (more than three-hour) notice for the national lockdown,” he asked.
“There was no harmony and suddenly a thoughtless lockdown was announced,” Singh said.
He said though the party stands by “all positive efforts”, it would be failing in its duty if it did not bring “some terrible, avoidable, indeed unpardonable mistakes” of this government.
“…I am forced to say that unpreparedness has become the byword and the buzzword of this government and unpreparedness has cost us dear,” he said.
Singhvi also said accused the government of playing politics in issuing passes to Congress workers who want to extend help to the poor and migrant people in distress due to the lockdown.
He also said that if the government can bring Indians from abroad, a decision his party supports, why could not it help those on the roads, “they are Indians and you cannot have a complete absence of schemes for a particular class…”