Mrs. Sonia Gandhi on Saturday urged the Prime Minister to act immediately to contain the spread of the coronavirus and provide financial support to workers, businesses and farmers, stressing that 'extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures'.
The Congress president said: 'This must change. We must begin by testing all cases under surveillance and expand to all other symptomatic cases and those coming into contact with the ones testing positive.'
The Congress leader continued: 'There is uncertainty and lack of information about the number of beds, isolation chambers, ventilators, dedicated medical teams, medical supplies, etc, including their location. This information, including location of each hospital and their emergency phone line numbers, should be publicly shared. A dedicated portal for sharing these and all other necessary information is one way forward. Special budgetary allocation is an equally important factor.'
Mrs Gandhi pointed to reports suggesting a scarcity of personal protection equipment, including N95 masks, gloves, face shields, goggles, head covers, rubber boots and disposable gowns for medical teams.
'We are proud of our doctors, nurses and supporting staff. At the same time, I strongly feel that the grant of special financial incentives for them in these trying times is equally important. Currently, both these are lacking. As the numbers grow, non-availability of sufficient protective gear and lack of incentives can be a huge deterrent,' she said.
'Equally alarming are reports that there are artificial shortages and black marketing of hand sanitisers, face masks and even liquid soap. It is the bounden duty of the government to ensure adequate supply and take corrective action. What is more unnerving is the fact that prices of essential commodities like vegetables, pulses, rice, etc, seem to be rising unchecked daily.'
Anticipating massive layoffs and retrenchments, apart from financial distress for day labourers, Mrs Gandhi asked for broad-based social protection measures, including financial help through direct cash.
'All businesses, especially the micro, small and medium businesses, are under a huge stress on account of Covid-19. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. A comprehensive sector-wise relief package needs to be announced forthwith by the government, including necessary tax breaks, interest subvention and deferment of liabilities. For the salaried class, government and the RBI must consider a deferment of EMIs,' she said.
She also demanded a special package for the agriculture sector, which she underlined was the greatest job creator.