- Sonia Gandhi urged the PM to "urgently call an all-party meeting"
- India is in the grip of a deadly health disaster, she said
- The government has abdicated fundamental duties towards the people
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday slammed the Narendra Modi government over its handling of the Covid pandemic, saying "let us be absolutely clear - the system hasn't failed... the Modi government has failed the people of our country".
Delivering the opening remarks at a virtual meeting of the CPP (Congress Parliamentary Party), she urged the Prime Minister to "urgently call an all-party meeting" to discuss the COVID-19 situation.
"India is in the grip of a deadly health disaster. Thousands have died and millions are scrambling to access basic healthcare, life-saving medicines, oxygen, and vaccines. It is heartbreaking to see people battling for their lives in hospitals, on roads or waiting in vehicles," Mrs Gandhi said.
"And what is the Modi government doing? Instead of alleviating suffering and pain, it has abdicated fundamental responsibilities and duties towards the people. Let us be absolutely clear - the system hasn't failed. The Modi government has failed the people of our country," she added.
India is struggling to contain a devastating second wave of Covid infections; this morning over four lakh new cases were reported in the previous 24 hours. The tidal wave has left hospital beds, medicines and oxygen supplies at a premium, and medical professionals overworked and traumatised.
Mrs Gandhi highlighted these "failures", including "failure to place sufficient orders for vaccines", and criticised BJP-ruled states for cracking down on people crying out for help.
"Instead of helping desperate patients, some BJP governments have been using the state's repressive power.... cracking down on citizen groups who are trying to help. They are also compelling social media platforms and the media to obfuscate the truth," she added.
The centre was also criticised over its stance on vaccine pricing, after manufacturers were allowed to charge up to 700 per cent more for doses sold to private hospitals and states. The Congress has accused the centre of "vaccine profiteering" but the centre has dismissed the charge.
"As you all know, Parliament allocated Rs 35,000 crores in the union budget to ensure free vaccines for all. Yet the Modi government has placed the burden on already stretched state governments. It has allowed differential pricing for vaccines," Sonia Gandhi said.
Mrs Gandhi also highlighted letters written by Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the "spirit of constructive cooperation", but said these had fallen "on deaf ears".
All three senior leaders have written several times to the centre; Mr Gandhi did so again this morning. Manmohan Singh's letter provoked a sharp retort from Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Sonia Gandhi called on Congress leaders and workers to unite in the fight against the novel coronavirus, and reserved special praise for the efforts of the Indian Youth Congress.
Finally, she reminded the centre that fighting Covid is not a 'Government versus Us' battle but a "Us versus Corona" battle". "This battle transcends political differences," she said.
Mrs Gandhi also said the party's performance in last month's elections was "very disappointing".