Lockdown a pause button not a solution to COVID-19: Rahul Gandhi to Centre
Former Congress president Gandhi said that the Centre needs to create a financial security net for “20 per cent poorest population” on the lines of the NYAY scheme and a “food security net”.
The nationwide lockdown is like a “pause button” and it is not the solution for the global pandemic, said former Congress president Rahul Gandhi while addressing a digital press conference on Thursday.
“A lockdown is like a pause button…In no way, a lockdown defeats the (COVID) virus,” Gandhi said. “The biggest weapon against the virus is testing…Our testing rate is 199 out of a million.”
The Member of Parliament from Wayanad said that in the past 72 days, India’s average stands at 350 tests per district. India needs to scale up its testing process and strengthen the medical infrastructure before the lockdown ends, he said.
"If you have to fight the virus, you have to increase testing dramatically and your testing has to go from chasing the virus to moving ahead of it. That means you have to move into random testing," he said.
Gandhi called upon the government to quickly resolve the issue of the migrants stranded at various places without food and money, saying that otherwise it might lead to social unrest.
The former Congress president urged the Narendra Modi government to create a financial safety net for the 20 percent of poorest population of the country by directly transferring money to their bank accounts on the lines of the NYAY.
Gandhi had announced the NYAY scheme in the run for the 2019 general elections. The Congress had promised to give Rs 6,000 per month as a minimum income guarantee to the 20 percent poorest population of the country.
Gandhi also asked for the creation of a “food security net” for the poor and marginalised. Else “food shortage” would be knocking at their doors, he said.
COVID-19 to trigger large scale unemployment
The Congress leader is one first Indian politician to point the economic fallout of the global pandemic. In the third week of March, Gandhi had warned that “coronavirus is like a tsunami” which could leave the Indian economy "devastated”.
Today, Gandhi further emphasised that the pandemic will have a negative effect on the country's economy.
Responding to the questions of the reporters, he suggested that a safety net should be created for the MSMEs and other strategic industries, which foreign entities may be eying for takeovers.
Calling for a "strategic opening" of the lockdown, Gandhi suggested opening of certain key areas and using testing to identify hotspots.
"Hence, you need to think and move strategically," he said, adding that there is going to be a massive financial backlash due to COVID-19. Waves of unemployment will put huge pressure on our financial system, he added.
The Congress leader also called for granting adequate resources to states to help them deal with COVID-19 in a "nuanced" manner.
He insisted that there is a need for devolution of powers to the states to help them effectively deal with the situation, while adding that a "blunt instrument" should not be used and what is needed is a strategic approach.
Need a united fight against the COVID-19
In the past few weeks, several reports of frontline healthcare staff being attacked have surfaced. On Wednesday, in Uttra Pradesh’s Muradabad district, a team of medical staff and police personnel – which had gone to test the family members of COVID-19 positive patients – was attacked. Stones were pelted at the ambulance. The UP administration has now pressed the National Security Act against the accused persons.
Urging people not to be worried about the testing process, Gandhi said that India needs to stand united to fight the virus.
"No one will be harmed by testing. It should be done on a large scale. But India will have to unite to fight the virus. Caste, religion and creed will have to be forgotten in fighting this virus," he said.