Oppn parties accuse govt of failing to tackle Covid-19 crisis, say stimulus package a ‘cruel joke’

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NEW DELHI: Accusing the Modi government of “failure” in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and indulging in “meaningless grand announcements”, the opposition on Friday termed the Rs 20-lakh-crore stimulus package as a “cruel joke on the country” and demanded the Centre come out with a revised stimulus which would stimulate demand.
The opposition meeting convened by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi warned that the post-coronavirus economic crisis could be catastrophic. It also accused the Centre of “unabashedly” usurping the powers of states in the name of fighting the pandemic.
After a marathon meeting, 22 “like-minded” opposition parties issued an 11-point charter of demands to the Centre, prominent being payment of a monthly amount of Rs 7,500 for six months to families outside the income tax bracket, distribution of 10kg of foodgrains for a similar period to needy families and “reversal of all unilateral policy decisions, particularly the annulment of labour laws”.
The gathering also asked the Centre to release substantial funds to states, urgently restore “parliamentary functioning and oversight” and to spell out if it had an exit strategy from the lockdown.
“This is neither the time for the government at the Centre to indulge in showmanship nor one-upmanship,” the joint statement said, stressing the need for collective action with states and stating that the opposition represented 60% of the population.
Importantly, the group also decided to form a committee to chalk out the protest plan for future.
The high-powered deliberations included Rahul Gandhi, chief ministers Uddhav Thackeray, Hemant Soren, Mamata Banerjee and regional satraps like Sharad Pawar, DMK chief Stalin, Tejashwi Yadav of RJD, NC’s Omar Abdullah and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Sources said leaders cutting across parties were critical of the handling of the migrant crisis. Sonia called the sight of workers walking as the “defining image of the pandemic”.
Pawar said factories were unable to resume production after the return of workers, and argued for a strategy to “bring them back”. He said many trains were provided by the railway ministry to transport migrants but more were required.
Sources said Tejashwi Yadav referred to a senior Bihar BJP functionary’s comment about “digital election”, calling it an attempt to derail democracy. He also spoke about the maltreatment of migrants from his state.
Questioning the Centre’s policy decisions, RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary said parties should guard against the dilution of civil liberties and land-labour rights.
In her opening remarks, Sonia said the economic crisis preceded the pandemic, reminding that the GDP started dipping in 2017-18 with demonetisation and a flawed GST but the Centre continued “with its misguided policies and incompetent governance”.

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