NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily on Thursday urged the government to revive a lapsed public health emergency bill by promulgating an ordinance which would give special powers to the Centre and states to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Moily made the suggestion in a note attached to his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"While I welcome some of the measures you have taken to combat COVID-19, I strongly feel some more measures should have been taken," Moily said in his letter to Modi.
The former Union minister is part of the Congress task force set up last month to intensify efforts to deal with the COVID-19 situation in states in which it is the ruling party.
Besides Moily, the task force also includes P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and Tamradhwaj Sahu.
In the note attached to his letter to Modi, the Moily said the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in serious crisis both in the health and economic sectors.
"Crisis management is a governance issue that is more vital and complex and it is now in the core of India's administrative system. The system requires innovative thinking and fundamental changes in order to quicken the emergency response of administration," he said.
The UPA-I contemplated a Public Health Emergency Bill which was introduced as the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-terrorism and Disasters) Bill in 2017, he said.
The new legislation gave powers to the Centre and the state governments, but this did not see the light of day and lapsed.
The draft bill clearly talks about the quarantining of suspects, isolation of the infected and empowers the Centre to direct states and districts or local bodies as well as assuming of certain powers bestowed to the states if it is in public interest.
"It is unfortunate that NDA failed to understand the foresight of the then government," he said.
"I think it is the right time for the government to review the status of the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-terrorism and Disasters) Bill and promulgate the ordinance to meet the present crisis," Moily said in the note.
The bill was to provide for the prevention, control and management of epidemics, public health consequences of disasters, acts of bio terrorism or threats thereof and for matters connected therewith, he said.
Moily also asserted that healthcare measures should not take priority over economic measures and both should be given equal priority.
"If healthcare measures are the only priority, then there would not be a healthy economy for the people to thrive in.
The financial and medical emergencies will have to go hand in hand," he said.
"We should learn from past mistakes like demonetisation, hasty GST, merger of PSU banks and squeezing of bank loans to correct the wrongs," he said.
Moily said the government should immediately prepare an action plan both for the medical and financial emergencies and implement the recommendations made in the third report on crisis management by the second Administrative Reforms Commission headed by him.