As the socio-economic crisis arising from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the sudden declaration of lockdown is intensifying very fast. It is also threatening the very sustenance of millions of toiling and oppressed people. Instead of properly addressing this question and announcing an adequate economic package, Prime minister Modi is once again cunningly trying to divert people's attention from the horrific situation by resorting to obscurantist practices that have no scientific basis. If banging vessels and clasping hands were his earlier proposals, today his suggestion is to switch off lights and lighting of torches for 9 minutes at 9 pm on April 5. Together with these, with the backing of corporate-saffron media, concerted efforts are in full swing to target the Muslims and communalize the whole situation by characterizing Corona as “Tabliighi virus” even as all avenues are extended to Majoritarian forces to carry forward their Hindutva programs throughout the country. In this context, we reiterate the following demands to simultaneously confront both, the Corona and the economic pandemic:-
Firstly, rather than planning an extension of present lockdown, immediate arrangements should be made for implementing the screening, testing, isolation method as repeatedly suggested by WHO, especially taking the concrete Indian social situation in to account. Efforts should be taken on a war-footing to test as much as possible of the population free of cost by procuring and developing cheap and portable testing-kits, and involving all private hospitals together with the public sector ones in the country. For this, the centre and state govts should go for take-over of buildings, halls etc held by private and corporate sector, and providing make-shift kitchens and other facilities.
Secondly, make all-out effort for urgent procurement of the required medical equipment for doctors and medical staff, including masks, sanitizers, together with ensuring uninterrupted supply of medicines as required at free of cost to the broad masses. The govt. should ensure the protection of doctors and medical and paramedical staff with adequate pay, allowance and compensation.
Thirdly, in accordance with federal principles, the Centre should take the state govts in to confidence in all initiatives connected with the ‘war against the Corona pandemic’. Especially, in view of the diversities of the country the state govts should have the major responsibility for screening, testing, isolation, quarantine and treatment. The provision of food and medicines to the needy at the local level can be efficiently carried out only by the states for which immediate fund devolution to state governments is an indispensable task on the part of the central regime. At the local/grassroots level, for making food, medicines, shelter and other essential amenities to the needy and for coordinating such activities, the state govts should encourage the formation of peoples committees, involving political parties, trade unions, women’s groups, youth, mass organisations and volunteer forces along with local body representatives.
Fourthly, the 21-day lockdown imposed without any preparation and in gross disregard of the social conditions of India has pushed the migrant and daily workers, slum dwellers, casual and unorganized workers comprising around one-third of Indian population who find it difficult to meet their both ends even in a routine situation in to a horrific condition. Together with them, the already marginalized dalits, adivasis, fisher people, craftsmen, hawkers, kirana-retailers, rag-pickers, etc. are there. Adequate measures are urgently needed for ensuring the livelihood of them who are stranded at various places including towns and urban centres. Immediate steps are required to provide their wages and earnings at least for three months or until the Corona threat is over.
Fifthly, in view of the enormous expenditures especially on the part of the state govts, a sufficient economic/rescue package should be announced immediately by the Central govt. in addition to the meagre one percent of the GST (more than half of which was already incorporated into the current budget through such schemes as employment guarantee) announced by the finance minister. Together with this, the food-stocks with the centre should be urgently released for free distribution through state govts among the poor for whom the hunger virus is more deadly. Further, hoarders, black marketers and speculators in food grains, essential goods should be strictly dealt with. All religious assemblies of more than four, of all denominations, and all other assemblies should be strictly stopped.
Sixthly, the central government should develop the facilities with the ICMR, involving all available expert scientists to develop medicine for this pandemic, instead of waiting for US or China or some others to develop it. India should urgently join with international SOLIDARITY of nations headed by WHO in the ongoing coordinated effort to develop the anti-Corona vaccine at the earliest, instead of clinging to the apron-strings of US. Scientific research on the root-cause of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its inseparable link with climate change is also needed.
Instead of approaching the COVID-19 pandemic from such a scientific and pro-people perspective and without even mentioning the unprecedented life-threatening situation of the deprived and marginalized, with appeals like switch off lights and light torches, Modi is once again shirking his entire responsibility as the PM. He must at least know that even according to official estimates, 18 % of the 135 crore Indian people (around 25 crore) have no electricity connection and many of those with connection have no regular power supply. By this gimmick, he is once again trying to divert people attention from the badly needed rescue package for appropriate medical intervention and for the survival of the millions of hungry people in this country. During the past six years, through tax-exemptions, direct money transfers, transfer of national assets, creation of NPAs and through a series of stimulus packages, Modi has transferred millions of crores of public money into corporate coffers. So, now in the present grave situation we should demand that a portion of this immense wealth transferred to corporates should be appropriated back to fund the urgent tasks. Instead, Modi’s intention is to put the whole burden of the pandemic on the backs of the already devastated common people. At this critical juncture, we appeal to the working class and all oppressed people, together with all those who stand with them, to come forward to expose and defeat the anti-people maneuvers of Modi regime led by corporate-saffron forces, so that together we can confront the grave challenge from both the corona virus as well as the economic virus.
CPI(ML) Red Star
3rd April 2020