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Opposition attacks Centre on Covid management, migrant workers crisis

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 16, 2020 Published on September 16, 2020

Congress leader Anand Sharma   -  THE HINDU

TMC MP Derek O’Brien speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament, in New Delhi   -  PTI

When lockdown was imposed, the country had 600 cases this has now increased to 50 lakh, says Anand Sharma

The Opposition attacked the Centre in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday on increasing Covid-19 cases, lack of medical care and inadequate supply of oxygen, unplanned lockdown, migrant workers crisis and the economic slowdown followed the lockdown due to the pandemic. The BJP retorted by flagging problems in ground-level management of the situation in States such as Maharashtra.

The debate on the pandemic and the steps taken by the Centre will continue on Thursday.

The Opposition MPs demanded more time to discuss the situation and alleged that the Centre is not allowing them to raise important questions. Initiating the debate, based on a statement tabled by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said “The Minister said in a statement yesterday that it has been estimated that this decision (lockdown) prevented approximately 14-29 lakh cases and 37,000-78,000 deaths...how have you derived this figure? What is the scientific basis, the House must be informed,” Sharma asked. “The day the lockdown was imposed the country had 600 cases which has now increased to 50 lakh,” he added.

BJP Vice-President Vinay P Sahastrabuddhe, claimed that the Centre held discussions with States before implementing the lockdown. He said at least 15 meetings were held between the Centre and the States and no one had opposed the lockdown. “The Centre took decision based on State governments’ suggestions. No decision was forced,” he said.

“I believe the politics of responsibility is more important than politics of ridicule,” he told the Opposition members and said several BJP-led governments took steps to help migrant workers. He said BJP and RSS workers engaged in service activities during the lockdown in a big manner.

He targeted the Maharashtra government on the management of the pandemic and said lack of coordination and political leadership was visible in the State. Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan, whose family members had to undergo treatment for the disease, said the issue must be seen beyond politics. “The way people were being treated in hospitals, the way Mumbai roads are getting sanitised every hour, it is incomparable. There should be no politics on this subject,” Bachchan said.

‘Not before lockdown’

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said of every ₹100 spent on public health, ₹63 comes from the States and only ₹37 from the centre. On lockdown, he said of the 15 meetings referred by Sahasrabuddhe, none of them were held before the lockdown.

“The problem is when things are going good, you want to take the credit. When things are tough, you start talking about Chief Ministers,” he said. “You need humility... This government needs the humility to work together with States,” the Trinamool Congress leader said.

DMK MP Tiruchi Siva also agreed and said the Centre reacted slowly because of the visit of US President. “The first case was detected in January and the self-imposed curfew started from March 23,” he said. CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem listed out measures taken by the Kerala government to battle the pandemic. He said even the WHO commended the State for its work, but the Health Minister did not spare a word.

During the zero hour, members from both the Opposition and treasury benches said there is huge scarcity for oxygen cylinders and prices have increased due to this. They urged the Centre to take steps to address the problem.

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Published on September 16, 2020
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