Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the COVID-19 crisis, noting that a national lockdown has become almost inevitable. Gandhi also emphasised that it was the Centre's failures in handling the pandemic, especially its lack of a clear and coherent Covid and vaccination strategy, that had placed the country in a highly dangerous position.
“Your government's lack of a clear and coherent Covid and vaccination strategy, as well as its hubris in declaring premature victory as the virus was exponentially spreading, has placed India in a highly dangerous position; today the disease is growing explosively. It is currently on the verge of overwhelming all of our systems. GOI's failures have made another devastating national lockdown almost inevitable,” Gandhi wrote in the letter.
The Congress leader, who recently said that in the light of the massive surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, a national lockdown has become necessary, wrote in the letter that it is critical that the people are prepared for such an eventuality.
“To prevent a repeat of the manifold suffering caused by last year's lockdown, the government must act with compassion and provide critical financial and food support to our most vulnerable people. In addition, it must be ready with transportation strategy for those who will require it,” he said, referring to the humanitarian crisis that unfolded in the wake of the hard lockdown imposed last year when lakhs of migrant workers trudged thousands of kilometres to get to their home states.
Gandhi said he was aware that the prime minister was concerned about the economic impact of a lockdown. “Inside and outside India, the human cost of allowing this virus to continue its march unimpeded will result in many more tragic consequences for our people than any purely economic calculations your advisers are suggesting,” he said, adding that in times of crisis, various stakeholders must be taken into confidence.
Noting that in such an unprecedented crisis, the people of India must be the prime minister's foremost priority, he urged him to do everything in his power to stop the “needless suffering that our people are going through.”
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The Congress leader said it is also important to understand India's responsibility in a globalised and interconnected world. “India is home to one out of every six human beings on the planet. The pandemic has demonstrated that our size, genetic diversity and complexity make India fertile ground for the virus to rapidly mutate, transforming itself into a more contagious and more dangerous form. The double and triple mutant strains that we are currently grappling with are only the beginning, I fear,” he wrote.
“Allowing the uncontrollable spread of this virus in our country will be devastating not only for our people, but also for the rest of the world,” he said and stressed on the need to scientifically track the virus and its mutations across the country using genome sequencing as well as its disease patterns.
He said the government needs to dynamically assess the efficacy of all vaccines against all new mutations as they are identified, rapidly vaccinate the entire population and be transparent and keep the rest of the world informed about India's findings.