Rahul Gandhi urges PM Modi to ‘drastically increase’ Covid-19 testing; give relief to migrant workers

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 29, 2020

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi   -  PTI



Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately strengthen the social safety net and “dramatically increase” the number of tests to combat Covid-19. Expressing solidarity with the Prime Minister, he said the Congress party and it’s workers are doing their “utmost” to cooperate with the steps the government is taking to fight the coronavirus outbreak in India.

Suspecting that the government will eventually extend the three-week lockdown even further, he said it is critical to understand that India’s conditions are unique. “We will be required to take different steps than other large countries who are following a total lockdown strategy. The number of poor people in India who are dependent on a daily income is simply too large for us to unilaterally shut down all economic activity. The consequences of a complete economic shutdown will disastrously amplify the death toll arising from the Covid-19 virus,” he said in the letter.

He asked the Centre to consider a nuanced approach that takes the complex realities of the people into consideration. “Our priority must be to protect and isolate the elderly and vulnerable from the virus and to clearly and strongly communicate to the young the dangers of proximity to older people,” he said.

Shut down of the economic engine

“Millions of India’s elderly live in villages. A complete lockdown and the resulting shutdown of our economic engine will almost certainly ensure that millions of unemployed youth rush back to their villages, increasing the risk of infecting their parents and the elderly population living there. This will result in a catastrophic loss of life,” the letter said.

“We must immediately strengthen the social safety net and use every public resource we have to support and shelter the working poor. Large population centres will require big dedicated hospitals with thousands of beds and ventilators. It is critical that we start setting up these structures and manufacturing the equipment that would be required, as fast as is humanly possible. At the same time, we need to dramatically increase the number of tests that we are carrying out to get an accurate picture of the spread of the virus and to contain it,” he demanded.

Migrant workers

He urged the Centre to help migrant workers who are walking to their homes by finding shelter and providing them with money directly into their bank accounts to help them tide over the next few months. “It is critical that we set up a defensive wall around our key financial and strategic institutions to protect them from the shock wave that is bound to come as the true impact of the virus and our economic shutdown hits us a few weeks from now. Our informal economy and immense network of small and medium businesses and farmers are going to be vital to any rebuilding effort. It is crucial that we engage them in a conversation, build their confidence and protect their interests with correct and timely action,” the letter added.

Published on March 29, 2020

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