New Delhi: Calling the Covid-19 crisis an “emergency”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has urged the Narendra Modi government to step up testing for Covid-19, come out with a financial package and address the issue of migrants, adding that a lockdown does not defeat the virus; it only stops it for a short while.
“In no way does a lockdown defeat the virus. It stops the virus for some time. But what is the real and biggest weapon against Covid-19 is testing. We require this to know where the virus is moving and isolate it,” Gandhi said while addressing a virtual press conference.
“India’s testing rate is very low, at 199 per million. Currently in India, 350 tests are being carried out per district, which is not enough to tell how the virus is moving. We are currently chasing the virus, but we need to get ahead of it and that is possible only through testing,” the former Congress president said.
Rahul Gandhi said it is imperative for PM Modi to find a strategy to come out of the lockdown, and advised a bottom-up approach, instead of top-down. “The PM’s role should be to empower the states, take them into confidence,” said the MP from Wayanad in Kerala, who also appreciated the state government’s work in battling the virus.
He also cautioned the Modi government against declaring an early victory. “Premature declaration of victory can prove fatal,” he said.
Suggestions for people and businesses
Rahul Gandhi slammed the financial package announced by Modi government, saying it was highly inadequate, and isn’t even reaching those who need it.
Calling for a strategic response to deal with the current crisis, Gandhi said food should be provided to all, including those who don’t have ration cards. He suggested that the government should prepare a minimum financial net for the poor.
“You need to provide funds directly in the accounts of the needy. You don’t need to call it Nyay Yojana (Congress’ 2019 Lok Sabha election promise) but at least provide money,” he said.
Predicting a “massive financial backlash” once the lockdown is lifted, Gandhi said unemployment has already started and will only increase in the coming months. “We need to make sure that in protecting lives, we don’t destroy our economy completely,” he said.
He also said micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be safeguarded, and a more comprehensive package needs to be announced. He also cautioned the government not to spend all its resources immediately, as the battle against the virus is likely to be a long one.
Set differences aside
Gandhi said his suggestions should be taken as constructive advice.
“Lockdown se baat nahin bani hai. Nuanced tareeke se strategically kaam karna hoga. But the Prime Minister has a different style of working and functioning, and we can work around that style,” he said.
Gandhi said he disagrees with PM Modi on several counts, but “today is not the time to fight, we have to fight the virus together”.
“We can’t afford to fight today. We will continue to give our constructive advice to the government, and it is up to them to take it or not,” he said.
Asked if this Covid-19 period could change the structure of Indian democracy, Gandhi said: “That’s a real possibility. We need to first take care of the virus. We know how to make sure India remains democratic,” he said.