New Delhi, March 26, 2020:
Sonia Gandhi, the President of India’s oldest political party, the Congress, has written to the nation’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the middle of the outbreak of the coronavirus or COVID-19 that has so far killed as many as 13 people across the country.
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Welcoming the 21-day lockdown imposed by the Government, Gandhi has assured the Congress’ collaboration “with every step taken by the Union Government to ensure the containment of the pandemic.”
Gandhi, stating that “it is imperative for each one of us to rise above partisan interests and honour our duty towards our country and indeed, towards humanity”, has also suggested some measures to ameliorate the “immense economic and existential pain that vulnerable sections of our society will soon be subjected to.”
The Congress leader has called upon the Governmemt to arm doctors, nurses and health workers with personal protection equipment, including N-95 masks and hazmat suits, so that not a single health worker faces the same predicament.
Sonia Gandhi further urged the PM to open a portal to share information about facilities such as designated hospitals, number of beds, isolation chambers, ventilators, dedicated medical teams, medical supplies, etc.
Moreover, the Congress leader has also urged the PM to construct temporary facilities with a large number of ICUs and ventilators in areas where the outbreak is predicted to be concentrated.
Stating that daily wagers, MNREGA workers, factory laborers, construction and unorganized workers, fishermen, farm laborers and many more are being laid off, Gandhi exhorted the PM to put in place “broad based social protection measures including Direct Cash Transfer.”
Adding that the lockdown has come in the middle of the harvesting season, Sonia Gandhi has also stated that the Union Government should take steps to enable harvesting and procurement of crops at MSP. The Congress leader also urged the PM to implement the minimum income guarantee scheme. Alternately, she suggested a cash transfer of Rs 7,500/- to every Jan Dhan Account Holder, PM KisanYojya account holder, et al. For businesse, Gandhi suggested, the Union should consider necessary tax-breaks, interest subvention, and deferment of liabilities.
Furthermore, Sonia Gandhi has urged the PM to defer all EMIs for a period of 6 months as a relaxation for the salaried employees. Also, she urged the Centre to consider not deducting loans from salaries.
In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has confirmed that the number of cases has risen to 649 (602 of those are from India and the rest are foreign nationals visiting the country). 42 of those afflicted have been cured or discharged. The death too continues to rise, with 13 people killed so far. The latest death in India has been reported from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. Internationally, the disease has killed at least 21,000.
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