PM’s address a rhetoric, hollow on specifics: Congress

The Congress on Tuesday termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address a “rhetoric” and “hollow on specifics”, saying he should spell out the government’s strategy to tackle coronavirus and solve people’s problems, rather than talk of what he expected of them.
A host of Congress leaders criticised Modi for not coming out with a financial package or concrete steps to revive the economy and asked what he was doing to mitigate the woes of poor, migrant labourers and farmers waiting to harvest crops.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi sought to assure people of her party’s support amid the crisis, saying whether the Congress was in power or in the opposition it would extend all help to the people.
In her video message, the Congress chief urged countrymen to stay indoors, be safe and observe the lockdown and social distancing stipulations, saying it will not be possible to win this battle without everyone’s support.
She expressed confidence that with a strong morale, the country will emerge victorious very soon.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said mass testing is the key to fighting coronavirus but India is currently nowhere in the game.
Pointing to low level of testing for coronavirus in the country, he said India is currently in the company of countries like Laos, Niger and Honduras, with only 149 tests per million population.
“India delayed the purchase of testing kits and is now critically short of them,” he said on Twitter.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked where is the country’s roadmap to fight coronavirus.
He said leadership does not mean making people realise their responsibilities but to fulfil the government’s duty of accountability towards the people of the country.
“A lot of talk has taken place but where is the roadmap to fight coronavirus,” he asked.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “The poor have been left to fend for themselves for 21+19 days, including practically soliciting food. There is money, there is food, but the government will not release either money or food. Cry, my beloved country.” Modi on Tuesday announced that the lockdown across the country will be extended till May 3 to fight the coronavirus pandemic, saying the measure has produced a significant outcome in containing the infection.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, “Amazing PM address. Exhortation, rhetoric, inspiration…..yet hollow on specifics! No financial package, no details, no concrete item. Neither for poor nor middle class nor industry nor businesses. Lockdown is good but cannot be end in itself! Where is single livelihood issue.” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the prime minister has not talked about the plight of migrant workers who are quarantined at state borders and what the government intends to do about them, as most of them have completed their 14-day quarantine.
Addressing a press conference through video, he said Modi has also not talked about ramping up mass testing in the country or about steps taken to increase purchase of personal protection equipment.
“The PM told the nation what he expects out of the people but the PM did not address concerns of the people or talk about what his government is doing for the people of India, something the people wanted to hear,” he said.
“What the PM has not spoken about and made for the most horrifying images when the lockdown was first implemented, is with regard to the plight of the migrant workers. They are in camps, spread out in various parts of the country,” he said, asking whether the government has any plan to ensure that they are taken back to their homes.
“Essentially, if someone has gone through the mandatory quarantine period and is not showing any symptoms, does it not become the government’s responsibility to facilitate their return. That’s what we wanted to hear, what is the Government doing about it,” Tewari asked.
The Congress leader said the party understands the inevitability of the lockdown and hence the Indian National Congress supports its extension as the Centre and all the states agree on this.
He also asked about steps the government is taking to stop retrenchment of workers and asked whether it will take action against those employers sacking their employees at such time of crisis.
Singhvi said the PM be assured that all stakeholders will do their duties and will strictly observe lockdown.
“After this: should we pray? We want concrete palliative for these deprived classes and even for middle India and MSMEs,” he said.
“PM address without single specific and without guidelines is like Hamlet without Prince of Denmark. Like PM without details! We want increased GDP allocation; specific targeted monetary injections; Keynesian spending; loosen FMRB etc. not a single word,” he tweeted.
Chidambaram said the CMs’ demand for money elicited no response.
“Not a rupee has been added to the miserly package of March 25, 2020. From Raghuram Rajan to Jean Dreze, from Prabhat Patnaik to Abhijit Banerji, their advice has fallen on deaf years,” the former finance minister said.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Modi did not talk on what he was doing to help the poor, marginalised and vulnerable sections who were finding it difficult to even have food in this crisis.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the PM should have also announced serious relief for those who cannot make ends meet.