Oppn leaders hail India’s efforts to contain Covid, then a word of caution
Leaders cutting across political parties hailed India’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic but cautioned the government on the hurdles lying ahead at the all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Even as many Opposition parties are up in arms against the Union government over the three new farm laws and are supporting the farmers’ protest in the national capital region, most political leaders stood by the government on the Covid issue.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said the pandemic should be a part of India’s national security policy, given the devastating impact of Covid on the lives of millions of Indians and the economy. Azad said the political leadership must be ready to counter the possible misinformation campaign over vaccines in the near future, according to the people cited above.
In the second all-party meeting with PM Modi since the pandemic, Azad mentioned how he took a jab of H1N1 vaccine along with Zydus scientists to dispel public fears and malicious rumours. While he maintained that India’s Covid management was “very good” in terms of the country’s size and population, he demanded that vaccines should be affordable and cold chains should be set up across the country.
The Trinamool Congress’s Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay sought “the PM’s advice” to the states and read out from a paper on how West Bengal was taking innovative measures to combat the pandemic. He said the Union government should extend full support to all vaccine producers.
The DMK’s TR Balu asked the Prime Minister to take “a serious note” of the fact that the virus spread from China but “their Covid tally remains lower than most of the country”. The DMK leader also sought uniform rates for RT-PCR tests and suggested mobilising public sector units, CSR (corporate social responsibility) and government funds to create a buffer stock of vaccines.
At this point, Balu picked up the farmers’ protests and said they were suffering in the cold weather of Delhi. Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi told him to stick to Covid. Balu hit back, saying the minister should not interrupt when he is talking to the PM.
YSRCP leader Vijayasai Reddy asked for a financial package from the centre for Telangana as the state government spent a large amount on biosafety of hospitals.
Lauding India’s fight against Covid, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said it was clear there were huge differences between many advanced nations and India, which was in a far better position in tackling the outbreak. Pawar suggested that the government should have added focus on storage of vaccines as well as handling bio-medical waste and countering misinformation.
While Pawar, a partner in Maharashtra’s coalition government, asked for the Centre’s help for the economic revival of states, RCP Singh of the JD(U) spoke about strengthening the cold chain to the last mile.
The BJD’s Chandrasekhar Sahu spoke of assessing the effectiveness of various vaccines and Satish Chandra Mishra maintained there should be no compromise with regular immunisation and health services. Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, chairman of Parliament’s health panel, asked the PM to expedite the goal of spending 2.2% of GDP on health.
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