Indian National Congress’s (INC) interim president Sonia Gandhi’s criticism of the government, saying that the lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID) might have been necessary but it was “unplanned”, does not match a comprehensive survey, the result of which was out in the public domain before she made this statement.
Here is what Sonia Gandhi said on the lockdown:
“Wage cuts, job losses across all sectors of the economy, high petrol diesel and gas prices are causing them acute distress. If this was not enough, while EMIs have been deferred, no interest subvention or relief has been provided. This offsets the entire purpose of the deferment. I urge the Central Government to prepare and publish a Common Minimum Relief Programme. This is vital and will help alleviate several of the concerns that currently afflict all people.”
“The 21-day national lockdown may have been necessary but the unplanned manner in which it has been implemented has caused chaos and pain in the lives of millions of migrant workers all over India. It has been heartbreaking to see lakhs of people walking for hundreds of kilometres towards their villages without food or shelter.”
“Medium and small-scale enterprises are now gravely threatened. They have been hit hardest by recent events. The livelihood of crores of our citizens has been im-perilled. The government needs to put in place a comprehensive strategy to manage this crisis.”
“Close to 90% of our fellow Indians toiling in the Unorganised Sector are also extremely vulnerable. They are already facing tremendous hardship due to hunger and lack of health facilities. As a nation, we owe them our full and constructive support.”
“We must take immediate measures to guarantee adequate shelter, food and medicines to as many of them as we can. COVID-19 does not differentiate between political ideology, religion, caste, age or gender. The choices we make today will have a direct impact tomorrow on our family, neighbourhood, community, environment and nation.”
Sonia Gandhi made this statement about six hours ago. However, a survey by Mrinalini Darswal, a bureaucrat, doctor and former special secretary of (AYUSH), Government of Delhi, published on News18 yesterday, does not bear out Gandhi. The claim about the economy by the INC interim president appears to have been made without going through the announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, where every institution, company and consumer was given concessions, keeping in view of the stalled affairs of the country and the world.
The previous exposition by Darswal, who is touch with the officials who are fighting the COVID pandemic on the ground, was published in Sirf News on 24 March.
Her survey says, “100% respondents stood with the government on lockdown deeming it as essential to control the pandemic. Three said it was not properly enforced, five said people were not taking it seriously but must and only one (respondent) said it should not continue beyond 14 April 2020.”
On the economy, Darswal finds that “39 respondents were fully satisfied with the facilities provided including ration. four complained about Police beatings, three were concerned about outsiders coming in from cities and advised they must be given facilities at the border itself and not allowed to come in, three demanded ration, and treatment with one demanding for testing to be made available to villages. One showed concern about livelihood and requested for adequate steps to help the economy. Two wanted relaxation for medicines while one another wanted stricter enforcement”.
This is besides the fact that on 26 March, when Sitharaman unveiled the Narendra Modi government’s first lockdown-period package, the stock market received the announcement at 1 PM well. Sensex went up 1,055.11 points (by 3.70%) at 29,590.89. It rallied over 1,500 points in the morning session. The NSE Nifty responded similarly, going up by 284.20 points (3.42%), higher at 8,602.05 at 2:30 PM. What made the investors buoyant?
The government had just announced direct benefit cash transfers, free LPG, grains and pulses for the poor. Members of the middle class can withdraw funds from their Employees Provident Fund account.
Yesterday onwards, before Sonia Gandhi had spoken, people — especially the poor — like farmers, MGNREGA, poor widows, pensioners and the physically challenged started getting benefits of the Rs 31,000 relief package.
But then, even that day when Sitharaman had announced she was doubling the collateral-free loan ceiling to Rs 20 lakh to 63 lakh women self-help groups to impact 7 crore households and boost cottage and even small industries, Sonia Gandhi was not happy.
The INC interim president was dissatisfied even when the government decided to pay the EPF contribution, the part that the employer contributes as well as that which the employee lets go every month, for three months — for firms with less than 100 employees, out of which 90% earn less than Rs 15,000 per month. What made Sonia Gandhi complain?
The INC interim president was actually pushing her failed NYAY scheme, which could not impress the voters in the 2019 general election. But her game is perhaps more than what meets the eye.
Remember Shaheen Bagh? Just two days before they blocked an important arterial road of the country’s capital indefinitely, Sonia Gandhi had said she was not happy. What does her not being happy follow? Her son and former INC president Rahul Gandhi said people must hit the streets!
Similarly, before 24 February, every time in course of the Shaheen Bagh blockade, a separatist spoke against India, the INC sympathised with the demagogue rather than condemn him or her — be it the case of Sharjeel Imam urging Muslims to dismember the ‘chicken neck’ and Assam from the rest of India or the vandalism of communist students of the election apparatus in the JNU.
On seeing the mischief-mongers of Tablighi Jamaat at the Nizamuddin Markaz of Delhi caught and quarantined, will another appeal to hit the streets follow?