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THE CITIZEN EDITORIAL | 17 APRIL, 2020

A Much Needed Press Conference In This Crisis

PC by Rahul Gandhi


Perhaps one of the most important and informative remarks on the current Pandemic have come from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who chose the medium of a press conference to bring out concrete points that could take us a long way in handling the crisis. He stuck a ‘we are all one’ note to emphasise that the need of the hour was unity and cooperation and he was in no way going to join issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As he said he had differences continues to have differences but the need today was to bring the country out of the pandemic together.

He made several important points - scientific and factual:
. The lockdown is not a solution, it is like hitting a pause button to delay the advancing coronavirus. Once the doors open the virus will also come in;
. Lockdown allows the time and space to set up the medical infrastructure, create the kind of architecture required to fight the virus as it picks up again;

.  Dramatically increase testing. Currently India is carrying out only 199 tests per million population that averages to 350 tests per district. This is very low as it is only testing that will determine our ability to combat the pandemic effectively. Right now we are chasing the virus, we need to get into a position where we are ahead of the virus and are able to chart and predict its movement before hand to take effective measures in time. Maximise testing;

.  Work closely with the states and the districts of India. The central government must respect the federal structure, speak to Chief Ministers regularly, respect their strategy and work out a joint strategy for the crisis. Work on a strategy nuanced to meet the specific needs of each state;

.  Open the food godowns for the labour, the migrant daily wage earners and distribute this to all ---ration card holders and those who do not possess these documents to stave off hunger and starvation;

.  Put together a financial safety net for small and medium businesses that provide 40 per cent employment;

.  Plan for the farmers and their produce to mitigate agrarian distress staring us in the face. Work on a food security plan.

.  Be united and compassionate in approach;

Rahul Gandhi was clear that his party and the states were prepared to work closely with the central government. That blunt instruments do not work, and the country has to ramp up the medical infrastructure as well as plan for dealing with the economic downslide. It was a good, sober press conference by any standards, cautioning loudly against treating the lockdown as a solution, insisting on increased testing, warning against what is to come, and urging strategy to deal with the crises. We hope to hear more from him as he is talking a great deal of sense.

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