In letter to PM Modi, Sonia Gandhi says nationwide lockdown a welcome step, offers 8 suggestions

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Updated: March 26, 2020 12:46 PM

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi has offered eight suggestions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address what she termed a "massive health crisis" amid coronavirus outbreak.

Sonia Gandhi COVID-19 outbreak: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi writes to PM Modi, voices support to lockdown.

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing solidarity with the measures being taken by the central government and offering all help in tackling what she termed as a major health crisis. In her letter dated March 26, Sonia Gandhi also backed the PM’s announcement of a 21-day nationwide lockdown and promised the support of the Congress in every step the Centre takes to contain the pandemic.

“At this challenging and uncertain time, it is imperative for each one of us to rise above partisan interests and honour our duty towards our country, and indeed, towards humanity,” the Congress president wrote, underlining the “spirit of solidarity” with the Modi government during this time of crisis.

In her letter, Sonia Gandhi also offered eight suggestions to the Prime Minister to address what she termed a “massive health crisis” we are about to face and “ameliorate the immense economic and existential pain that vulnerable sections of our society will soon be subjected to”.

Gandhi’s suggestions ranged from scaling up manufacture and supply of Personal Protection Equipment for health professionals to the construction of temporary facilities with ICUs and ventilators to social protection measures and deferring all EMIs for a period of six months to help the salaried class.

“It has been announced that the Union government has allocated Rs 15,000 crore to fight the coronavirus including meeting the requirements of our doctors, nurses and health professionals. I would like to re-emphasize the urgent need to arm our doctors, nurses and health workers with ‘Personal Protection Equipment’ including N-95 masks and hazmat suits,” she wrote.

“Announcing a special ‘Risk Allowance’ for doctors, nurses and health workers for a period of six months retrospectively from March 1 was imperative,” she added.

She also suggested the government to start a dedicated portal for sharing information like designated hospitals and their locations, number of beds, isolation chambers, ventilators, dedicated medical teams, medical supplies etc.

Sonia said that government should immediately commission and begin construction of temporary facilities with large numbers of ICUs and ventilators in geographical area where the outbreak is expected to be concentrated in the near future. Noting that many businesses and companies were laying off and retrenching large numbers of regular and temporary employees, she said, “It would be in order for the Union Government to immediately put in place broad-based social protection measures, including direct cash transfer, to these sections to tide over the period of difficulty.”

She further suggested PM Modi to implement the minimum income guarantee scheme ‘NYAY Yojana’ proposed by the Congress party. “It is the need of the hour,” she said, adding that this will give them basic economic resource to fall back on.

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