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Covid: Positivity won't help people breathe, Congress tells Centre

The Opposition party was responding to the lecture series started by the RSS and BJP’s all-out effort to defend the Centre's performance in fighting the pandemic
Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 13.05.21, 01:06 AM

The Congress on Wednesday said positivity could be spread through constructive action, arguing that emphasis should be on providing immediate relief to citizens devastated by the pandemic instead of “hiding the truth of India’s pain” through propaganda.

The Opposition party was responding to the “Positivity Unlimited” lecture series started by the RSS and the BJP’s all-out effort to defend the Narendra Modi government’s performance in fighting Covid-19.

The Congress ran a counter-campaign saying the ruling establishment wanted to hide its sins by using the power of propaganda. The Congress’s campaign asked a key question: “Will positivity help the patients breathe?”

Among the several messages posted by the party on social media was this: “The Modi government and the RSS plan to start a ‘Positivity Unlimited’ campaign to dispel criticism. What they fail to understand once again is that propaganda will never hide the truth of India’s pain.”

Rahul Gandhi set the tone by condemning the positivity campaign as a fraud on the people of the country. The Congress MP tweeted: “The false assurance of positivity is a cruel joke on the healthcare workers, those families who have lost their members and the patients who are struggling with the crisis of oxygen, medicines and hospital beds. Burying your head in the sand is not positivity, it is a fraud on the citizens.”

In another tweet, Rahul said: “Tragic news is coming ceaselessly. Basic problems haven’t been solved yet. For how long will our countrymen suffer the cruelty of this government during this pandemic? Those who are responsible are in hiding.” 

The Congress leader appeared to be referring to Prime Minister Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. Home is the nodal ministry to manage the pandemic. Both Modi and Shah have vanished from the public eye after the Bengal elections, as the pandemic crisis intensified. 

Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said: “Negative news is coming from every corner — people are dying because of oxygen shortage, crematoriums don’t have space and bodies are floating in the Ganga. Lakhs of people are losing their jobs. The vaccination drive has slowed down drastically. 

“How can you tell the people to be positive? They are looking for ‘aapda mein awsar (opportunity in crisis). The government is profiteering from people’s miseries. You can spread positivity through positive action, not mere propaganda. Why are you being so cruel, what sin have the people committed by reposing trust in you?”

Vallabh added: “The central government is still charging GST on life-saving drugs and equipment. Vaccine 5 per cent, remdesivir 12 per cent, oxygen concentrators 12 per cent, sanitiser 18 per cent, ambulance 28 per cent, face shield 18 per cent. 

“Our calculation shows that the Centre will collect Rs 6,000 crore in a year only on three items — vaccines, remdesivir and oxygen concentrators. With this money, 20 crore people can be vaccinated. Or, 12 lakh oxygen concentrators can be bought. Or, 1.2 lakh ventilators can be purchased.”

He confronted finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman who has claimed that the removal of GST will increase prices of these items.

“Illogic and sophistry cannot fool us. When we say removal of GST, we mean exemption on the raw materials as well. There are a hundred ways to exempt GST on the final product. If you don’t understand, call a meeting of the GST Council and our finance ministers will explain to you. Or I can give you a tutorial on how to do it,” Vallabh said.

Several Congress leaders lamented that the RSS-BJP had chosen propaganda to counter the criticism coming its way instead of intensifying good work. 

The Congress has set up a central control room in Delhi that is being looked after by a “Covid task force” headed by veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad. All the state units have been asked to open control rooms and launch helplines to provide assistance to the people. Individual leaders are also helping people; the Youth Congress under the leadership of B.V. Srinivas has earned national and international fame by serving those bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

While leaders like Deepender Hooda have formed their own teams to reach out to people, Sachin Pilot has launched a helpline in Rajasthan. 

A Twitter handle called “Pilot With People” has received thousands of requests for help since being opened on Tuesday, with a dedicated team formed by the former deputy chief minister arranging medicines, oxygen and hospital beds across the state. 

While the Karnataka Congress is running a free ambulance service, most other state units are feeding the poor or supplying food packets to the relatives of patients in hospital.

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