As the nation deals through coronavirus outbreak, Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said that 12 crore jobs have been lost in the first phase of the lockdown asking the government to provide at least Rs 7,500 to each family to tide over this crisis. Sonia Gandhi's remarks have come as the party sat for Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting adding unemployment is likely to increase further since economic activity remains at a standstill.
The Congress chief also said, "We have repeatedly urged the Prime Minister that there is no alternative to Testing, Trace and Quarantine. Unfortunately, testing still remains low and testing kits are still in short supply and of poor quality. PPE kits number and quality are poor. Migrant laborers are still stranded, jobless and desperate to return home. They have been hit the hardest. They must be provided with food security and a financial safety net in order to survive this period of crisis."
Full text of Sonia Gandhi's opening remarks in CWC meet
Since our meeting three weeks ago, the pandemic has increased disturbingly - both in spread and speed. The lockdown continues and all sections of our society continue to face acute hardship and distress—particularly our kisans and khet mazdoors, migrant labour, construction workers and workers in the unorganized sector. Trade, commerce and industry have come to a virtual halt and crores of livelihoods have been destroyed. The Central Government does not appear to have a clear idea on how the situation will be managed after May 3rd. A lockdown of the present nature after that date would be even more devastating.
Since the lockdown commenced on March 23rd, I have, as you all know, written several times to the Prime Minister. I offered our constructive cooperation and also made a number of suggestions to alleviate the suffering of both rural and urban families. These suggestions had been formulated on the basis of feedback we have been receiving from different sources, including our Chief Ministers.
Unfortunately, they have been acted upon only partially and in a miserly way. The compassion, large-heartedness and alacrity that should be forthcoming from the Central Government is conspicuous by its absence. Our focus must continue to be on successfully engaging with health, food security and livelihood issues. We have repeatedly urged the Prime Minister that there is no alternative to testing, Trace and Quarantine programme. Unfortunately, testing still remains low and testing kits are still in short supply and of poor quality. PPE kits are being provided to our doctors & healthcare workers but the number and quality is poor. Entitlement of food grains under the National Food Security Act have not yet reached the beneficiaries.
11 crore people who are in need of subsidized food grains, remain outside of the Public Distribution System. It should be our commitment to provide 10 kgs of food grains, 1 kg of pulses and half a Kg of sugar to each person of the family every month, in this hour of crisis.
12 crore jobs have been lost in the first phase of the lockdown. Unemployment is likely to increase further as economic activity remains at a standstill. It is imperative to provide at least Rs.7,500 to each family to tide over this crisis.
Migrant labourers are still stranded, jobless and desperate to return home. They have been hit the hardest. They must be provided with food security and a financial safety net in order to survive this period of crisis. Farmers are facing serious difficulties too. The issues of weak and unclear procurement policies and disrupted supply chains need to be addressed without delay. Necessary facilities must be made available to the farmers for the next round of Kharif crops which will begin in the coming 2 months.
MSMEs employ close to 11 crore personnel today. They make up for one third of the GDP. If they are to be protected from economic ruin, it is imperative that a special package be announced urgently for their survival. Friends, the states and local governments are the frontline of the battle against COVID-19.
Funds legitimately owed to our states have been held back. I am sure our Chief Ministers will brief us on the difficulties they are facing. Let me also share with you something that should worry each and every one us Indians. When we should be tackling the coronavirus unitedly, the BJP continues to spread the virus of communal prejudice and hatred. Grave damage is being done to our social harmony.
Our party, we will have to work hard to repair that damage. There are a few success stories and we should applaud them. Most of all we should salute every single Indian leading the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic inspite of the absence of adequate personal protection equipment. The doctors, nurses, paramedics, health workers, sanitation workers and all other essential service providers, NGO and the lakhs of citizens providing relief to the most needy all over India. Their dedication and determination truly inspire us all. I should also acknowledge the untiring and relentless efforts of not only the Congress state governments but equally of our party workers and volunteers across the country.
I end by once again reiterating our Party’s commitment to extend our constructive support to the government.