Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to offer six suggestions to help combat the second Covid wave, which he said had forced “ordinary Indians (into) selling land, jewellery and expending savings to ensure treatment for loved ones”.
Mr Kharge, who is Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, urged the Prime Minister to adopt a “collective and consensual” approach, and said civil society and citizen groups were fighting an “extraordinary national battle” because the centre “seems to have abdicated its duties”.
In his letter Mr Kharge called on the centre to convene an all-party meeting to “collectively forge a holistic blueprint to tackle the pandemic” and utilise the Rs 35,000 crore allocated for Covid vaccines to ensure all Indians are inoculated.
He also asked the centre to “leverage compulsory licensing” to increase vaccine production, waive taxes on critical medical equipment – vaccines (five per cent), PPE kits (between five and 12 per cent), ambulances (28 per cent) and oxygen concentrators (12 per cent).
Mr Kharge also asked for distribution of foreign relief material to be expedited and an increase in minimum pay and work days (from 100 to 200) under MNREGA to help unemployed migrants.
The letter is the third appeal by a Congress leader in as many days, following letters from Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi and a statement from interim party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Mr Gandhi, in his letter, urged the Prime Minister to “scientifically track the virus and its mutations”, and warned him against allowing mutated versions of the virus to spread unchecked.
Mrs Gandhi was more direct in her criticism; she accused the centre of having “failed the people of our country”, and said it was “heart-breaking” to see millions scramble for medical aid.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also written to the Prime Minister, warning of a potential oxygen supply crisis in her state and calling for tax waiver for medical equipment.
Prime Minister Modi has spoken individually to the leaders of the worst-affected states – this morning he spoke to Punjab, Bihar, Karnataka and Uttarakhand – to review the situation.
On Saturday international medical journal The Lancet said the India had “squandered” its early successes in controlling COVID-19, and that Prime Minister Modi’s government could preside over “a self-inflicted national catastrophe”, and urged it to start “owning up to its mistakes”.
India is scrambling to contain a devastating second Covid wave that has seen it report more than four lakh new cases in each of the past four days, and more than three lakh a day since April 22.
Active cases across the country are now over 36.5 lakh – nearly four times more than the previous record, which was set in September last year during the first wave.