Amid the 21-day lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision-making body of Congress, on Thursday met through video conference to review the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis. The CWC meeting started at 11 a.m. During the meeting, Congress interim Chief Sonia Gandhi said that the "magnitude of the challenge before us is daunting but our resolve to overcome must be greater".
Friends, We meet today in the midst of unprecedented health and humanitarian crisis. The magnitude of the challenge before us is daunting but our resolve to overcome it must be greater. The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused untold suffering across the world, but it has also reaffirmed the bonds of brotherhood that unite humanity. In our country, those who are most vulnerable to the consequences of this pandemic are the poor and disadvantaged. We must come together for their sake and do all we can to support them through the difficult days that lie ahead. The 21 days National LockDown may have been necessary but the unplanned manner in which it has been implemented has caused chaos and pain in the lives of millions of migrant workers all over India.
It has been heart-breaking to see lakhs of people walking for hundreds of kilometres towards their villages without food or shelter. It is the duty of us all to do our utmost to lessen their suffering. I wish to thank all those who are offering them help, our workers, civil society and people who have shown their kindness and compassion to them. As far as the COVID-19 virus is concerned, there is no alternative to constant and reliable testing. This is the most effective way to combat it. Our doctors, nurses, and health workers need all the support possible. Personal Protection Equipment such as hazmat suits, N-95 masks, etc. must be provided to them on a war footing. Equally important are Ventilators and breathing equipment, isolation beds and designated hospitals to treat COVID-19. The onus lies on Governments to ensure that the spread of infection and casualties are not caused owing to lack of infrastructure or preparedness.
I would like to request the Government to publish and make available details of designated hospitals, number of beds, quarantine and testing facilities, as well as information regarding the availability of medical supplies to the general public. Farmers, who have faced the wrath of inclement weather this season, are now confronted with having to cope with the harvesting season. This, at a time when the entire country has been locked down. They urgently require the availability of fertilizers and pesticides, access to easy lines of credit, forward guidance in preparing for the planting of the Kharif crop. Above all proper remuneration, prices are essential for them to be able to survive the present economic onslaught it.
Medium and Small-Scale Enterprises are now gravely threatened. They have been hit hardest by recent events. The livelihood of crores of our citizens has been imperilled. The government needs to put in place a comprehensive strategy to manage this crisis. Close to ninety per cent of our fellow Indians toiling in the Unorganised Sector are also extremely vulnerable. The economic consequences of the pandemic threaten to destroy their livelihood. They are already facing tremendous hardship due to hunger and lack of health facilities. As a nation, we owe them our full and constructive support. The middle classes too are vulnerable. Wage cuts, job losses across all sectors of the economy, high petrol diesel and gas prices are causing them acute distress. If this was not enough, while EMIs have been deferred, no interest subvention or relief has been provided. This offsets the entire purpose of the deferment.
I urge the Central Government to prepare and publish a Common Minimum Relief Programme. This is vital and will help alleviate several of the concerns that currently afflict all people. I urge our Congress governments, frontal organisations, our leaders and workers to step forward and offer their help to those families who are at extreme risk. We must take immediate measures to guarantee adequate shelter, food and medicines to as many of them as we can. COVID-19 does not differentiate between political ideology, religion, caste, age or gender. The choices we make today will have a direct impact tomorrow on our family, neighbourhood, community, environment and nation. How effectively we meet this challenge, how we protect all sections of our society, especially the most vulnerable among us will define us for generations to come. Only if we act together in solidarity, we will overcome. Jai Hind!