Coronavirus Outbreak: Centre imposed lockdown without preparation, wasted time during initial days, says Congress' Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury
Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Tuesday alleged the Centre wasted time during the initial days of the outbreak and implemented the lockdown in haste
Kolkata: Countering Prime Minister Narendra Modi's defence of his government's measures to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Tuesday alleged the Centre wasted time during the initial days of the outbreak and implemented the lockdown in haste.
Urging Modi to credit the states for their efforts in fighting the pandemic rather than "patting his own back", he said states have been more active in handling the situation.
The senior Congress leader insisted that the strength of cooperative federalism — where chief ministers of various parties and the prime minister work in unison — has come to the fore amid the coronavirus crisis, and the BJP should take all criticism positively.
" COVID-19 was first reported in early December in China. It started gaining ground in January. Several countries put restrictions in place to tackle the crisis, but our government didn't attach much importance to it and continued to live in denial.
"The Centre wasted precious time in January and February. Had it taken precautionary measures earlier, the situation would not have aggravated so much," Chowdhury told PTI over phone from New Delhi.
The senior Congress leader, however, acknowledged that India was in a "much better position" compared to many other developed nations, which are stuggling to deal with the pandemic.
"The Union government, however, has a lot more to do to ensure that the Public Distribution System (PDS) works smoothly and each and every person in distress gets food grains," Chowdhury said.
Modi on Tuesday announced that the current lockdown will be extended till May 3, stressing that it was a necessary move to contain the spread of the pandemic. The nationwide lockdown that came into effect on 25 March was to expire on the midnight of 14 April.
The prime minister also said that India has managed to contain the spread of the infection well due to its holistic approach in dealing with the crisis and also because of the sacrifices made by the people of the country.
The veteran Congress leader, however, claimed that the Centre imposed the lockdown without adequate preparations.
Several nations, before announcing lockdown, gave three-four days' time and not just a few hours, as was the case in India, Chowdhury contended.
"States have been more proactive in dealing with the crisis. Several states had implemented lockdown before the Centre. The Union government went for the shutdown without preparation and that inconvenienced thousands of migrant labourers and sparked panic buying," he said.
Had the Centre implemented the lockdown and stopped international flights a few weeks prior to 25 March, the circumstances today would have been much better, the five-time Lok Sabha MP from Baharampur in West Bengal noted.
The Union government should take immediate steps to ensure that all health workers are provided masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), and aggressive testing should be carried out everywhere, he said.
"Just coming up with more beds (in hospitals) won't work; we have to make sure that doctors and health workers get masks, PPEs. There is an apprehension that enough tests are not being conducted despite the high population density in the country," the Congress leader said.
The death toll due to coronavirus infection in the country rose to 339 on Tuesday, while the number of cases soared to 10,363, the Union Health Ministry said.
The Congress leader requested the prime minister to come up with a proper roadmap for economic revival.
"The Centre is simply clueless about economic revival.
Lakhs of people across the country have lost their jobs, run out of cash and other resources. The government should prepare a roadmap to deal with this," he said.
Rebuffing the allegation that the Congress was trying to fish in troubled waters by criticising the BJP government's measures to tackle the crisis, Chowdhury said the saffron party should learn to take criticism in a positive spirit instead of dismissing serious issues raised by the opposition as "dirty politics".
"We have supported the Centre in its decisions regarding the pandemic; several states have also shown support... The Centre and BJP should also learn to take criticism on a positive note.
"Our job is not to sing paeans to the government. It is very easy to divert attention from the crisis by alleging the opposition is indulging in politics. Such tricks won't help the country in the long run," he said.
Asked about the situation in West Bengal, Chowdhury said the number of tests conducted in the state is far less than the national average.
"Kerala with its 3.5 crore population has conducted more tests... West Bengal with its 9.5 crore population is far behind the national average. People are apprehensive that the state government is trying to hide the real picture. I would request the state not to suppress information as it will create more panic among people," he added.
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