"Despite A Year To Prepare...": Sonia Gandhi Slams Centre Over Covid

India Coronavirus Cases: Fight against the pandemic is a "national challenge that should be kept above politics," Sonia Gandhi said in a statement after the online meeting that was also attended by Rahul Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi slammed the government over Covid crisis. (File)

Highlights

  • India has "regrettably been caught off guard again": Sonia Gandhi
  • She stressed "immunisation age should be reduced to 25"
  • Sonia Gandhi targeted the government over shortage of vaccines
New Delhi:

The government's handling of second Covid wave today drew sharp criticism from Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at an online meeting of top party leaders where she said that India has "regrettably been caught off guard again despite a year to prepare". Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over "thundering silence" amid repeated appeals about medical oxygen, hospital beds and vaccines, the Congress chief stressed that "immunisation age should be reduced to 25". 

Fight against the pandemic is a "national challenge that should be kept above politics," the 74-year-old Congress leader said in a statement after the online meeting that was also attended by Rahul Gandhi. "We cannot lose sight of the fact that the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the country with fury. Despite a year to prepare, we have, regrettably, been caught off guard again," she said.

An alarming surge of 2.34 lakh Covid cases - the biggest daily spike so far - took India's Covid tally to 1.45 crore cases this morning. The country has recorded 10 lakh cases in the last six days, the government data shows, as many parts battle the second Covid wave.

Sonia Gandhi targeted the government over shortage of vaccines, medicines, hospital beds and medical oxygen. "It is deeply concerning to read news reports of acute shortages of medical equipment and hospital beds. Reports from across the country speak of the scarcity of Covid-19 vaccine as also of important life saving drugs including Remdesivir in different parts of the country," she said.

Referring to a meeting last week with the Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states, she attacked the government over "the gross unpreparedness and avoidable adhocism on part in foreseeing, evaluating and managing the crisis."

"I have written to the Prime Minister after meeting with them. Our Chief Ministers have spoken to the Prime Minister and written to the concerned minister from time to time pleading for relief. Some of them were left with only a few days of vaccine, no oxygen or ventilators. But there has been thundering silence on the part of the government. On the contrary some other states have received preferential treatment/relief," the Congress chief stressed.

"Instead of listening to the constructive suggestions of the opposition, Union Ministers are pressed into service to attack leaders of opposition for giving those suggestions. This convoluted "me versus you" debate is childish and totally unnecessary," she underlined.

Mrs Gandhi also hit out the government over export of vaccines: "India has already exported nearly 6.5 crore Covid-19 vaccine dosages to other countries. Considering the highest infection rate in the world in our own country, shouldn't vaccine export be held back and priority given to protect our citizens? How is boasting about our generosity to other countries going to help the thousands of our people who are dying." 

The scathing remarks came even as the government has repeatedly said there is no shortage of vaccines. 

"Government must also reconsider its priority for vaccine candidates by reducing the immunization age to 25 years and above as also all younger persons with at-risk health disorders like asthma, angina, diabetes, kidney & liver diseases and other similar ailments," Sonia Gandhi said in her letter. 

India is carrying out the world's largest vaccine program, which began on January 16. Twelve crore doses have been administered so far. Earlier this month, the vaccine net was widened to those who are 45 or above. 

Amid unrelenting criticism over the handling of pandemic, the BJP had slammed the Congress earlier this month. Shortly after Rahul Gandhi's letter to the Prime Minister on what he called the "catastrophic" impact of vaccinations "at a snail's pace", the BJP hit back with a question -- "Why has Rahul Gandhi not yet taken vaccine?"