Rajya Sabha members today made great effort to keep their anger under control when they discussed the government’s handling of Covid-19 situation and the sudden imposition of lockdown, which played havoc with the lives of millions of migrant workers.
Participating in a discussion on health minister Harsh Vardhan’s detailed statement on the pandemic, the members recalled the horrors the country had gone through. They often lost temper when reminded they had limited time to speak, when the time was raised to four hours.
While Congress leader Anand Sharma questioned the government’s claims that the lockdown prevented up to 29 lakh Covid-19 cases ~ when the number of cases touched 50 lakh with 82,000 deaths ~ and wanted to know why states were not informed about the lockdown, TMC’s Derek O’Brien said the government did not know how to work with humility, and accept the best practices adopted by states.
“What is the scientific basis for the sudden lockdown, the House must be informed,” Sharma said. He said the government had no information on how people suffered due to the sudden lockdown. Had the states been taken into confidence, they could have asked the lower level administrations to warn the people.
O’Brien said the health minister had only congratulated the PM in his statement, and forgot the CMs who worked hard to tackle the crisis. Before 5 March, several states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Delhi had initiated steps to face the pandemic. In West Bengal isolation camps were set up.
The lockdown was as sudden as demonetization, he said. Criticising the diversion of MPLAD funds towards the PM CARES Fund, he said this was not democracy but autocracy.
Two images from the Covid days lingered ~ one of the ‘little lady’ (chief minister Mamata Banerjee) drawing circles on the ground to teach people social distancing, and the other of the PM with a peacock in his garden.
Several members objected to what they said were comments on political lines by BJP’s Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe. The BJP member praised the Centre’s efforts to raise medical infrastructure to fight the pandemic but attacked the Maharashtra government’s work on Covid19. Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party) said the Maharashtra government had done excellent work in sanitizing roads. She said her family members had fallen sick and she saw doctors working very hard.
DMK’s Tiruchi Siva said there was under-reporting of Covid cases. Too few tests were done and frontline health workers were not taken care of. K Keshava Rao (TRS) said states were doing their best.