The Opposition in Lok Sabha Sunday alleged a failure in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus crisis, saying a sudden lockdown caused hardships to the migrants and the poor, a charge rejected by BJP and its ally JD (U).
The ruling allies said Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the fight against the killer virus well by taking states into confidence and several lives were saved by the government’s persistent efforts.
Initiating the debate on “COVID-19 pandemic in the country”, Shashi Tharor (Congress) alleged “utter mismanagement” in dealing with the pandemic, saying the country witnessed a “fundamental breakdown” in government machinery in the past few months, instead of mature and proactive governance.
He said that instead of clearly-communicated protocol and comprehensive strategies on part of the government, the country witnessed a lack of clarity, readiness and preparedness to combat the virus.
Had the government listened to warning about the virus made by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and others, the situation would have surely been managed better, Tharoor said.
Participating in the debate, BJP member Kirit Solanki highlighted various welfare schemes announced by the Modi government and said the poor and downtrodden were provided free foodgrains and cash incentives during the lockdown and afterwards.
Solanki said the country has so far tested five crore people for coronavirus of which 1.5 crore tests were conducted in the last two weeks.
The BJP member pointed out that 33 crore poor people were given Rs 31,235 crore through the direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and the beneficiaries include farmers, women and senior citizens.
Without naming anyone, Solanki said a leader was tweeting on ways to deal with the virus, but he is not present in the House to debate on the issue.
Rajiv Ranjan Singh of the JD-U slammed opposition members for criticising the government “rather than giving constructive suggestions”.
“The more you criticise the Prime Minister, the more his popularity graph will go up,” he said.
Singh said because of a timely announcement of the lockdown, the country did not face community spread of the virus.
The ruling dispensation, Tharoor earlier said, continued to delay the implementation of a national strategy to stop the spread of the virus.
“This was the first failure of the government,” he said.
The failure to adequately recognise the scale and complexity of the problem compounded their unwillingness to listen to the voices that warned well in advance of the consequences of ignoring the problem of such magnitude, he said.
When the number of cases were comparatively low in India there was still time for the government to execute comprehensive strategy to curb it, he said. “It is moral responsibility of any government to take the nation into confidence and not leave them in dark.”
He also said that due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, the country’s economy is in a bad shape now, and added arrangements were not made to fight with the virus.
If the migrant workers were allowed to go to their hometowns in the beginning, the current situation would have not arisen, he said.
The government should have taken the nation into confidence which it did not do as a result the nation “is losing confidence in you (government)”, he said.
DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran slammed the government for its alleged failure in creating enough health infrastructure in the country during the lockdown.
He said when the first case was detected in February, the government allegedly did not take initiatives to fight the virus and instead “it was busy gathering people” for the US President Donald Trump’s Gujarat visit.
Maran said during the Budget Session in February-March, no one was speaking about the virus and alleged he was not allowed to speak in the House on the issue.
“When the lockdown was announced, people got just four hours to prepare. There was no planning. The states were not informed, the way demonitisation was announced in 2016. There was chaos everywhere,” he alleged.
The lockdown was “fantastic” but the government “failed” to create the required health infrastructure, Maran said. “We have lost time. We let go the golden window.
He also said after the PM’s announcement of the salary cut for MPs, many firms also resorted to the same steps, besides sacking some of their employees.
In an apparent reference to the Tablighti Jamaat incident in Delhi where scores of people tested positive, Marana criticised the government for “blaming” Muslims for the initial spread of COVID-19 in the country.
TMC member Kalyan Banerjee said the Centre should provide financial help to states and the GST dues of West Bengal should be released expeditiously.
He said the pandemic should be fought by the states and Centre together. “This is not the time to start a blame game. We have to fight coronavirus going beyond political considerations.
He also lauded the state government’s handling of the migrant workers crisis during the initial phase of the lockdown.
B V Satyavathi of the YSR Congress lauded healthcare workers.
Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant alleged the migrant crisis was not handled properly by the Centre and “there were mistakes somewhere”.
Sawant appealed to the PM to fight the pandemic unitedly, the way the whole country is standing united on the border standoff with China.
“The PM should lead, we all will support. Please don’t discriminate us. Help us,” he said.