A joint letter by 12 Opposition parties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, 12 May, said that the COVID-19 pandemic in India “has assumed unprecedented dimensions of a human catastrophe” and demanded action on several fronts such as expansion of vaccine production and procurement and the repeal of the Centre’s new farm laws.
The letter has been signed by Opposition leaders such as Sonia Gandhi, HD Deve Gowda, Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray, Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin, Hemant Soren, Farooq Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, D Raja, and Sitaram Yechury.
Saying that despite the parties, individually or collectively, having drawn the government’s attention to several issues, no action had been taken on these fronts, the letter demanded that measures on some fronts be “undertaken on a war footing” by the Centre.
Foremost among the issues raised by the parties is the issue of vaccines amid the pandemic. On this issue, they have demanded that the government procure vaccines centrally from all available sources, immediately begin a free, universal mass vaccination campaign across the country, invoke compulsory licensing to expand domestic vaccine production, spend budgetary allocation of Rs 35,000 crores for the vaccines and release all money held in “the unaccounted private trust fund” PMCares to buy more vaccines, oxygen and medical equipment required.
The Opposition parties also demanded that the construction of the Central Vista be halted, and the allocated money instead be used for procuring oxygen and vaccines.
The letter also called for the repeal of farm laws in order to protect the farmers from “becoming victims of the pandemic so that they can continue to produce food to feed the Indian people.”
Among other demands by the parties is that the unemployed be given at least Rs 6,000 per month as well as free distribution of food grains to the needy.
“Though it has not been the practice of your office or government, we would appreciate a response to our suggestions in the interests of India and our people,” the letter added.