60 days later, it is now clear that the lockdown has not been able to defeat the virus. The number of new cases in many areas around the country are increasing exponentially. Clearly the PM and his advisors had underestimated the scale of the battle India had to launch to defeat the Coronavirus.
The Prime Minister was quick to take centre stage in the early stages of this battle. But now, when his leadership is most needed, he’s stepped back. However, our state Governments are fighting valiantly against the virus, but they are struggling because the funding that the central government should have made available to them has not been forthcoming.
On behalf of the citizens of India, I want to ask the Government, with utmost humility and in a completely non-partisan manner, what is the Government’s plan to tackle this growing crisis? It is now clear that 4 stage of the lockdown haven’t delivered the results that were anticipated. What is the Government’s Plan B?
It is important the Government share concrete plans for how it intends to deal with our migrants crisis? How does it plan to scale up testing which is urgently needed? How does it plan to support our MSMEs? How will our State Governments be funded? There are many critical questions that the Government is not providing us answers to, which need to be addressed urgently.
Earlier this month the PM announced an economic stimulus which according to him was equivalent to 10 percent of the GDP. Economists in India and around the world have done the math and come to the sad conclusion that the economic stimulus announced by the PM is actually less than 1% of our GDP and that too most of it is in terms of loans that could drag our MSME’s into a debt trap from which they will struggle to recover.
In Congress run states we have been doing whatever we can to both stop the spread of the virus and reducing the economic pain our people are facing through direct cash transfers and other measures. But without financial support from the Centre our State Government’s ability to help those urgently in need of support is limited.
Conversation with Media People
On a question that you have said that lockdown has failed and you have raised the migrant issue a lot, I saw your videos also. So, my question is how did the Government fail in handling the migrants as you have mentioned, was it the timing of the lockdown and second part is that now most of the migrants have returned to their villages, so that is also creating a health hazard for the local people and at some point of time, they will have to comeback also, so as a constructive opposition party, how do you think the Government should go ahead from now onwards,
Shri Gandhi said– I don’t want to go into why the Government has failed, that is in the past. I don’t want to sort of go into details about what could have been done, how it could have been done, who should have done it, I am not interested. I am interested in right now. I am interested in what India is facing right now and what we are facing right now is a failed lockdown, because the goal of the lockdown as stated by the Prime Minister on national television was that we will defeat the disease in 21 days, these are not my words, these are the words of Prime Minister.
Now it is one lockdown, two lockdown, three lockdown, we are coming to the end of the fourth lockdown and the disease profile is not reducing. So, I am just stating a simple fact that what we expected from the lockdown, has not occurred, disease profile is shooting up. In number of states, it is shooting up. What is the Government thinking of doing going forward?
The Congress Party is in power in 3 or 4 states, we know what we are planning. We are very clear what has to be done in our states. We are giving money to the poor people. We are giving food to poor people. We are managing the migrants, we are increasing our testing, we have a strategy, but, states cannot function in a strategy without the national Government. States are hamstrung if the national Government is not behind the states. So, I have spoken to our Chief Ministers, who have asked me to mention this. They have said that they are fighting a lonely battle. They are confident. They understand what has to be done, but, what is the Central Government planning to do, that is the main question. We of course have a view, we put that view down, we said that injection of money is required, aggressive movement on that front is required, but, we were disappointed. But, once again I want to state, I do not want to get into the past that this was about that Government, that was what they did wrong, No, I am interested in present.
On another question that India was facing high unemployment levels even before the coronavirus crisis began. Since then this concern has only deepened. Since we are a young country in terms of its average age, do you think India has made a mistake by prioritising health over the economic risk associated with the lockdown,
Shri Rahul Gandhi said- I don’t think, it is either health or economics. I think, we are smart enough, intelligent enough to work out a path through that will create a compromise, a successful compromise between health and economic. So, I don’t see this as an On-Off switch, when you either solve the health problem or you solve the economic problem, I think, there is a lot of nuance to that. However, India has been facing a very serious unemployment problem and this is not new. This has been going on, you heard of ‘Make In India’, you heard of some of those initiatives and they have not given the result that one was expecting, for whatever the reason. However, now, there is a new element to this unemployment, which is that we were already struggling and now suddenly we have hit this Corona problem which has multiplied this unemployment problem. As you can see businesses were shut down and I am sorry to say this as a national leader, but, many-many small and medium businesses are going to go bankrupt, the people who work for the businesses are going to become unemployed and that is why, we are raising, again and again and again that a injection of capital and injection of money to small and medium businesses, is required. It will be fatal, if we do not do it, injection of money to the poorest 50 percent of India is required, it will be fatal if we do not do it. So, yes, there is an unemployment problem, but, that unemployment problem has now been compounded massively by the current crisis and I do not think, it is a choice between health care and economics. I think we are intelligent enough to work out a solution that looks after both.