Centre has been 'criminally negligent' in handling second wave of COVID-19: CPI(M) mouthpiece

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New Delhi, Apr 22 (PTI) CPI(M) mouthpiece People's Daily has accused the Centre of being 'criminally negligent' in handling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and blamed the 'callous politics' of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for endangering the lives of thousands.

In its latest issue dated April 21, the CPI(M) mouthpiece also criticised the government for allowing the Kumbh Mela to be held in Haridwar where lakhs of pilgrims gathered without masks and did not maintain social distancing.

'The Modi-Shah duo are criminally responsible for the havoc caused by the second wave. The COVID-19 cases crossed over 2,34,000 on April 17, the very day Narendra Modi addressed an election rally in Asansol, West Bengal, where he congratulated the people for coming in large numbers and declared that he had not seen such crowds at a rally before,' People's Daily said.

'This callous politics endangering the lives of thousands of people exemplifies the criminal responsibility of the Modi-Shah duo...,' it said.

India on Thursday registered a record daily rise of 3,14,835 fresh COVID-19 cases and 2,104 fatalities that pushed the country's total tally to 1,59,30,965 and the death toll to 1,84,657, according to Union health ministry data.

Incidentally, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury's son, Ashish, 35, died due to COVID-related complications at a Gurgaon hospital earlier in the day.

The People's Daily editorial further said, 'The catastrophe which has hit the people is agonising. There are no beds in hospitals, no oxygen for patients, no COVID tests on time and vaccines have run out. The cremation grounds have run out of space to cremate the dead. It is in the midst of such a man-made calamity that Modi and Shah have set out to capture Bengal.' 'India was given the grand role of supplying vaccines to the Indo-Pacific region by the Quad Summit held on March 11. Biden assigned this job to India, while at the same time, the United States had banned the export of vaccine material to India.

'Modi had grandiloquently assumed that India is playing the role of 'Viswhaguru' – a favourite idiom of the RSS. Alas, such hubris has cost the country and the people dearly,' the editorial stated.

It said that the 'plain fact' is that having declared success, the government and health authorities let their guard down.

'Faced with the resurgence of the virus, the ruling circles began to blame the people for laxity and failure to observe COVID protocols. No attention was paid to the growing evidence of a new Indian strain of the virus, a double mutant.

'It now appears that the first sample of this variant was found on October 5, by genome sequencing, but no direction was given or efforts made to take gene sequencing forward...The net result being the failure to track the prevalence and spread of this more infectious variety in time,' the CPI(M) mouthpiece said.

The editorial slammed the government for claiming that there are two made-in-India vaccines in the country including Covishield.

'The made-in-India vaccine was itself a bogus slogan since the main vaccine, Covishield, had been created by the Astra Zeneca-Oxford project and (it) had given the Serum Institute license for manufacturing in India,' it said.

The editorial accused the government of abandoning its responsibility to provide free vaccines to all countrymen by announcing the new vaccination policy.

The Centre on Monday liberalised the vaccination drive to allow states, private hospitals and industrial establishments to procure the doses directly from manufacturers.

Under the third phase of the national vaccination drive commencing next month, vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory-released doses to the central government and would be free to supply the remaining 50 per cent to state governments and in the open market.

The editorial hit out at the Centre and the Uttarakhand government for allowing Kumbh Mela to be held.

'Besides this negligence and complacency, there is also the unscientific and blinkered Hindutva vision of the government. The prime example of this catering to blind faith and superstition is the way the Kumbh Mela was allowed to be held at Haridwar where lakhs of people assembled. The Kumbh, which is held once in 12 years, was due in 2022, but it was advanced by a year due to astrological calculations,' it said.

'The BJP government in Uttarakhand and the Centre went out of the way to ensure that the Kumbh was held without any regulation or restrictions. It is only after the public outcry and international attention focused on the raging pandemic that Modi made a last-minute request to hold only symbolic ceremonies in the last phase of the Kumbh,' it said.

On April 17, Modi said that Kumbh should now have symbolic participation as it will boost the fight against the COVID-19 crisis. Following his appeal, crowds at the banks of Ganga thinned down drastically as the key 'akhadas' of seers pulled out citing the rise in the number of coronavirus cases.

The Kumbh Mela was shortened this year to just one month, from April 1 to 30, due to the pandemic. In normal circumstances, the religious gathering, which is organised once in 12 years, is held from mid-January to April. PTI ASG DIV DIV