New Delhi, Apr 8 (PTI) The CPI(M) accused the government on Thursday of assuming that the 'worst' was over while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and said it was 'negligent' in dealing with the viral disease.
The editorial in the latest edition of the party's mouthpiece, People's Daily, highlighted how the second wave of the coronavirus infection has left the country facing a 'calamitous situation'.
It pointed out that April 4 saw the number of daily cases breaching the one-lakh mark (1,03,709 cases) and on April 7, the figure was 1,26,260.
On Thursday, the country registered a record single-day spike of 1,26,789 coronavirus cases.
'The death rate is also mounting. To say that the government was unprepared for this surge is an understatement. On the contrary, the (Narendra) Modi government was behaving as if the worst was over in January and confident that the economic recovery was well underway.
'Both on the health front and in providing relief to the people during the economic crisis, the Modi government has been grossly negligent,' the editorial stated.
The party alleged that this negligence was reflected in the Union Budget for 2021-22, which made the claim of an 'unprecedented' 137-per cent hike in allocations for the health sector, when in actual terms, the budgetary provision for 2021-22 for the department of health and family welfare shows a 9.6-per cent decrease over the actual expenditure incurred in 2020-21.
'The way in which the government has formulated its vaccination policy is also contradictory and confusing. So far, two vaccines have been approved for emergency use -- AstraZeneca's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. While the latter was controversially approved for use as part of the third phase of trials, the regulatory body has still not cleared the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V.
'It is being used in 35 countries but awaits approval for manufacturing by an Indian company. The supply of vaccines is already falling short with stocks rapidly depleting in states where the surge is most. This is at a time when people above 45 are being vaccinated from April 1. The failure to plan and execute a scaled-up vaccination programme is glaring,' it said.
The Left party recommended that the government should not only see that Sputnik V is put to use immediately, but also procure licences for the production of vaccines such as the Johnson & Johnson product, which requires only a single dose.
'The Novavax vaccine to be produced by the Serum Institute in India as Covovax should be expedited,' it said.
The editorial also mentions the Aatmanirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana, which is meant to develop capacities in the primary, secondary and tertiary health systems and other public health facilities and suggested that the allocation for it should be increased.
'Though the scheme is to incur an expenditure of Rs 64,180 crore over six years, no allocation was made for it in the budget. This scheme should be immediately operationalised as strengthening the public distribution system should be the priority.
'Contrary to the rosy picture projected by the government of a V-shaped economic recovery, it has become evident that growth is halting and can be stalled. The core sector comprising eight segments marked its steepest contraction in six months,' the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said.
It also said the fiscal stimulus package announced amounted to hardly 1.5 per cent of the GDP in terms of additional expenditure.
The government has to take concrete measures now to meet the impending crisis, it said, adding that the first step should be to ensure that every family is provided 35 kg of foodgrains per month, of which 10 kg should be given for free.
'Earlier, the government had announced a provision of five kg of rice/wheat and one kg of dal free of cost for 80 crore people who came under the purview of the Food Security Act. However, this was continued till only November 2020.
'As of March 1, 2021, India had a huge buffer stock of foodgrains of 9.2 crore tonnes (including un-milled paddy). This is three times more than the mandated buffer. The government should increase the quota of free foodgrains to 10 kg per household per month for at least the next six months,' it said.
The party also said the BJP-led Centre should replicate the Kerala model, where 95 per cent of the COVID-19 patients were given free treatment in the public health system. It pointed out that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the southern state has also provided free food kits to 88 lakh families during the entire period of the pandemic.
'The kit consists of not only cereals but pulses, edible oil and masalas. The Modi government, instead of focussing on tackling the public health emergency and taking the necessary economic policy measures to shield the people from the economic crisis, has been utilising the crisis to push through neoliberal measures to promote the interests of the corporate and financial oligarchy.
'The farm laws, the new labour codes and the privatisation drive of public sector enterprises have gone hand-in-hand with toxic communal politics. For the sake of the country, there should be a halt to this pernicious course. The pandemic and the people's welfare must get the undivided attention of the government,' the editorial said. PTI ASG RC