Sonia chairs meeting of 22 parties, questions Modi over handling of corona crisis; AAP, SP, BSP give it a miss
In a sign that the Opposition was gearing up to come out of the “lockdown” mode, 22 Opposition parties came on one platform on Friday to question the Narendra Modi Government’s handling of the fallout of Covid-19 pandemic, including humanitarian crisis, and said all powers were now concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the regime has abandoned any pretence of being a democratic Government.
The Opposition parties demanded that the Centre present a revised and comprehensive package that will be a true fiscal stimulus in order to rev up the economy.
Presenting a 11-point charter to the Modi Government, the Opposition leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, Uddhav Thackeray, Hemant Soren and NCP chief Sharad Pawar among others issued a joint statement saying grand announcements of Rs 20 lakh crore were made but it has done nothing meaningful to alleviate the sufferings of people, particularly the migrants who are toiling hard to reach their destinations.
They sought that the Centre facilitate free transportation of the migrants who are still on roads without food and water. At the same time it also demanded the Centre consult State Governments while allowing international/domestic flights.
“Present a clear and meaningful economic strategy focused on revival and poverty alleviation instead of propaganda. The Rs 20 lakh crore package and its contents mislead the people of India,” said the Opposition.
Interacting with Opposition leaders through video conference, the Congress president accused the Modi Government of mismanagement in handling the situation prevailing in the country. She said the very spirit of “federalism” has been forgotten as all power is now concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“A number of renowned economists are predicting that 2020-21 will end with negative growth of up to minus 5 per cent. The consequences will be catastrophic,” Sonia said.
Top Opposition leaders included Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference Omar Abdullah, DMK’s MK Stalin, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury among others.
Others who attended the meeting and also expressed their views, were Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, AK Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed, HD Devegowda (JDS), Derek O’Brien from Trinamool, Praful Patel (NCP), MK Stalin (DMK), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena), D Raja (CPI), Sharad Yadav (LJD), Dr Omar Abdullah (NC), Tejaswi Yadav and Manoj Jha (RJD), PK Kunhalikutty (IUML), Jayant Chaudhary (RLD), Upendra Kushwaha (RLSP), Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF), Jitin Ram Manjhi (HAM), Jose K Mani (KC-M), NK Premchandran (RSP), Raju Shetty (Swabhimani Paksh), Thol Thirumavalavan (VCK-TN) and Prof Kondandaram (TJS).
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), however, did not attend the meeting.
The Congress chief said Modi’s initial optimism of being able to “conclude the war against the virus in 21 days turned out to be misplaced”.
The meeting began by condoling the loss of lives and destruction in West Bengal and Odisha caused by cyclone Amphan and urged the Centre to declare it as a national calamity for providing better financial assistance to the States.
The virtual meeting of Opposition leaders comes almost two months after the Centre declared a nationwide lockdown on March 25 to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“That the present Government has no solutions is worrying, but that it has no empathy or compassion for the poor and vulnerable is heartbreaking. The Government has also abandoned any pretence of being a democratic Government. All power is now concentrated in one office, the PMO. The spirit of Federalism which is an integral part of our Constitution is all but forgotten,” Sonia said in her opening remarks.
The Congress chief noted that lakhs of migrant workers, many with children, walking hundreds of kilometres, without money, food or medicines, have become the “defining image of the pandemic”.
“Every economist of repute had advised an immediate need for a massive fiscal stimulus. The Prime Minister’s announcement on May 12 of a grand Rs 20 lakh crore package – and the Finance Minister spelling out its details over the next five days, have turned out to be a cruel joke on the country,” she said.
“Far from offering succour and support, the Government has embarked on a wild adventure of so-called reforms including a grand clearance sale of PSUs and repeal of labour laws. There is not even pretence of consultation with stakeholders or debate in Parliament. We deplore these unilateral moves,” Sonia mentioned.
She said the Government has largely ignored the suggestions of like-minded Opposition parties to transfer cash and free food grains to the 13 crore families at the bottom of the economic pyramid; provide wage protection to laid off and retrenched workers and assistance fund for 5.8 crore micro small medium enterprises (MSME).
Saturday, 23 May 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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