PM must lay out lockdown-exit plan, roadmap to fight corona, bring economy back on track: Congress

The Congress on Saturday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi must come forward and address the countrymen to enlighten them on the way ahead in dealing with the coronavirus and economic situation.
Asking when the lockdown will finally end, Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the prime minister must also lay out the exit strategy from it and spell out the goalpost in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and economy.
Accusing the government of not handling the issue of migrant labourers in a humane or compassionate manner, he urged the prime minister and the Centre to ferry them to their home in sanitised trains for free, along with food.
“Will we see another lockdown? When will the lockdown finally end? The prime minister must come forward and address 130 crore Indians and enlighten them on the way ahead,” Surjewala told reporters at a press briefing through video-conferencing.
The Congress also posed a set of five questions to the government and a set of seven suggestions, including some they have already made to support migrant labourers, provide food and cash to the poor.
Surjewala said the home ministry issued an order late on Friday evening, extending the lockdown till May 17, but neither the prime minister nor the home minister came forward to address the nation.
“The fight against corona shall have to be fought unitedly and not in a unitary fashion,” he said.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also said it was intriguing that the prime minister stayed away from the announcement on national television and left it to a notification issued by the home secretary.
“Unlike Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, no objectives were spelt out for Lockdown 3.0. We think the government is obliged to spell out the objectives and the course of action after May 17.
“If the objectives are achieved, what is the course of action? If the objectives are not achieved, what is the course of action? The people wait for answers,” the former finance minister said in a series of tweets.
He also made light of the government allowing transportation of migrants through trains and said, “Belated wisdom is better than no wisdom. It is another example of poor thinking and haphazard planning.” Surjewala said the nation was not informed about the lockdown extension.
“The nation was not acquainted of the way ahead or enlightened about the time limit. Neither did a conversation take place on the humongous difficulties nor on the multiple challenges. No one heard the ‘Mann Ki Baat’ of fellow Indians nor did we hear Modiji’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ and there was no one to answer lakhs of questions, doubts and apprehensions,” he said.
“130 crore Indians seek answers on what is the aim of Lockdown 3.0? What is the purpose, objective and strategy? “The nation witnessed Lockdown 1.0, then Lockdown 2.0 and is now seeing Lockdown 3.0. Will there be a Lockdown 4.0 and Lockdown 5.0 in the future? When will it end completely?” the Congress leader asked.
He also asked what was the goalpost in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic situation of the country by May 17.
“What are the achievable goals by May 17, as decided by the Modi government, to deal with the infection, livelihood challenges and huge economic crisis? What concrete and positive steps will be initiated by May 17? “What is the thought and policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the nation? What is the roadmap not only for harvesting and grant of MSP to the farmers, but also for the sowing of the next kharif crops and availability of fertilisers, seeds, and pesticides?” Surjewala asked.
He also asked what are the arrangements for ensuring livelihood and ration for over 40 crore urban and rural poor and labourers and what is the relief package for the 4.25 crore micro, small and medium industries (MSMEs) generating 11 crore jobs.
“How do you propose to ensure jobs and pay protection for middle-class and salaried people? What is the strategy for revival and restarting the tourism and hotel industry, textile industry, construction industry, automobile and IT industry, transport and aviation industry and other such sectors? “What is the timeline for a safe and time-bound return of nearly eight to 10 crore migrant labourers?” Surjewala asked.
The Congress leader suggested seven solutions on his party’s behalf, including a “Financial Action Plan Part-2”.
He said the government should ensure free travel in sanitised trains of the lakhs of stranded migrant labourers within 15 days and this should be treated as its first responsibility.
Surjewala said India’s poor, labourers, farmers be given Rs 7,500 through DBT in their Jan Dhan accounts, PM Kisan Yojana accounts, MGNREGA labourers accounts as also in the account of every senior citizen, widow, physically-handicapped person.
In addition, he said 10 kg of foodgrains (wheat or rice), one kg of pulses and half-a-kg of sugar per person be given to every family for sustenance.
Surjewala also demanded that the entire crop of farmers be procured at MSP and the payment made within 24 hours. Besides, the entire outstanding amount, be it of the sugarcane farmers or other farmers, be cleared within seven days.
“All recoveries from farmers should be deferred for a year and the interest waived,” he said.
The Congress leader also sought a “Rs two-lakh crore salary and credit package for the MSMEs.