Congress President Sonia Gandhi said that despite a year to prepare, India has been caught off guard. The Congress leader blamed the Modi government of 'gross unpreparedness' and 'adhocism' in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. She also suggested ways to handle the aggravating situation, including immunising people from 25 years of age and providing income support to people.
"We have extended our hands of cooperation right from February-March, 2020. We cannot, however, lose sight of the fact that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the country with fury. Despite a year to prepare, we have, regrettably, been caught off guard again," Gandhi said.
Gandhi was chairing the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) when she made the remarks. She also accused the Centre of giving preferential treatment to some states while maintaining 'thundering silence' on requests by states helmed by the Congress or the Opposition parties. She said that Congress believes that fighting the pandemic is a national challenge and is beyond politics.
The Congress veteran said that Union ministers are attacking leaders of opposition instead of listening to their constructive suggestions. "This convoluted 'me versus you' debate is childish and totally unnecessary," Gandhi said.
Sonia Gandhi made a range of suggestions including decreasing the immunisation age to 25 years, and to include all younger persons with at-risk health disorders like asthma, angina, diabetes, kidney and liver diseases and other similar ailments.
"In the course of my talks with our chief ministers, the question of GST (Goods and Services Tax) came up. They felt that as a preliminary measure, all equipment, instruments, medicines and support required to prevent and treat COVID-19 should be made free from GST," Gandhi said. She also said that 12 per cent GST is levied on drugs such as Remdesivir and medical oxygen, which is a matter of grave concern.
"As the central and state governments move ahead to control the situation by resorting to partial curfews, travel restrictions, closure and lock downs; we will again be restricting economic activity that will hit the already beleaguered people, especially the poor and the daily wagers," she said.
It is, therefore, imperative to provide monthly income support and transfer an amount of Rs 6,000 in every eligible citizen's account, Gandhi said.