NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday reviewed the efforts by the states ruled by her party to tackle the second wave of the coronavirus infection and the vaccination drive.
Addressing a virtual meeting with the chief ministers of the Congress-ruled states and ministers of the party in states where it is in power in alliance with others, she said the priority should be to test, track and vaccinate.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh and Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel were among those who participated in the meeting.
While Singh pointed out that Punjab's vaccination stock will last for five more days, Baghel said Chhattisgarh will run out of the vaccine stock in three days.
Party chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that the Congress chief also reviewed the efforts to fight COVID-19, including the availability of vaccines, access to medicines and ventilators. "The priority is to test, track and vaccinate," he wrote on Twitter, quoting Sonia Gandhi.
"The (Narendra) Modi government has mismanaged the COVID situation. It has exported the vaccines and allowed a shortage to be created in India," the Congress chief said at the meeting.
She said that all public gatherings and poll rallies should be cancelled as the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise and asked the chief ministers if the economic packages announced by the Centre had the desired impact.
"Mass gatherings for elections and religious events have accelerated COVID for which all of us are responsible to some extent. We need to accept this responsibility and keep the interest of the nation above our own," Sonia Gandhi said.
Surjewala said the Punjab chief minister has pointed out a vaccine shortage. "He candidly points out that Central Govt has given no assurance of numbers and supply," he wrote on Twitter.
Surjewala also said Gehlot has pointed out that the shortage of the vaccines is a reality that cannot be wished away. "Pointing to the spurt in infections, he states that Centre must take States on board as stakeholders and not as adversaries," he said.
Quoting Baghel, Surjewala said he underlined the steps taken by the Chhattisgarh government to fight COVID-19 and pointed out that the state has only three days of vaccine stock left.
In her introductory remarks, Sonia Gandhi said the number of coronavirus cases is going up and as the principal opposition party, it is the responsibility of the Congress to raise issues and push the government to move away from "PR tactics" and act in the interest of people.
"Therefore, there must be transparency. Governments must reveal the actual numbers of infections and deaths across the states, whether Congress-ruled or otherwise. We must focus on India's vaccination drive first and foremost, then only export vaccines and gift them to other countries. We must stress on responsible behaviour -- adhering to all laws and COVID regulations without an exception," she said.
The Congress chief said cooperation with the states is showing respect to federalism and it is equally important for the states to be constructive and cooperate with the Centre in its efforts to fight the pandemic. "We are all united in this fight," she said.
Sonia Gandhi said strict measures need to be taken in the Congress-ruled states to ensure that the pandemic does not go out of control and large-scale testing, preparation of adequate facilities and setting up temporary ones should be ensured. "We must make all efforts to support those who face the brunt of reduced economic activity as the restrictions become harder and more stringent," she said.
Gandhi asked, "Is there enough vaccine available? Has the central government been cooperative? What are our states doing to ensure the availability of oxygen, ventilators and other facilities as the pandemic grows?" "What are your views on another lockdown? What about the economic fallout? How bad is the situation in your state? Should public gatherings, including election rallies, not be cancelled?" she asked.
Stating that various packages have been announced by the Centre to help MSMEs and stimulate the economy, the Congress chief asked, "What impact have these packages had and what more should the government be doing to deal with the continuing crisis? Do you see economic recovery happening in the manner that is being officially claimed?" "According to our discussion on COVID, I would like to be briefed on the latest situation regarding the agitation of farmers that has been going on now for well over five months.
"The Congress-ruled states have passed their own laws but those have not received the presidential assent. What more should we do even though the keys to the solution are with the Centre, which has created the problem in the first place," she said.