'Provide Free Vaccines, Stop Central Vista Project': 12 Opposition Leaders Write to Modi

Claiming that the pandemic has turned into an "apocalyptic human tragedy", they asked the Centre to provide food grains to the needy, and give Rs 6,000 per month to all the jobless people.

New Delhi: Leaders of 12 opposition parties Wednesday, May 12, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a free mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, and the suspension of the Central Vista project and divert the money to aid the fight against coronavirus.

Claiming that the Covid-19 pandemic has turned into an “apocalyptic human tragedy” in the country, the opposition leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and some chief ministers, also demanded the Centre provide food grains to the needy, and give Rs 6,000 per month to all the jobless masses.

In their joint letter in which they make nine suggestions to the government, the leaders have also demanded a repeal of the three Central farm laws which, they claimed, will help protect lakhs of ‘annadatas’ (food-growers) from becoming the victims of pandemic.

A large number of farmers are sitting in protest at three borders of Delhi, seeking the farm laws passed by Parliament in September last year be scrapped.

Apart from Congress president Gandhi, the signatories include former prime minister and JDS leader H. D. Deve Gowda, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, chief ministers Uddhav Thackeray (Shiv Sena), Mamata Banerjee (TMC), MK Stalin (DMK), and Hemant Soren (JMM).

Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah (NC) and Akhilesh Yadav (SP) have also signed the letter, alongside Tejashwi Yadav (RJD), D Raja (CPI) and Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M).

The leaders have said the Covid-19 pandemic has assumed unprecedented dimensions of a human catastrophe in the country. They noted that they have in the past also suggested to the government the measures they believed were “absolutely imperative” for the Centre to implement to arrest the situation.

“Unfortunately, your government has either ignored or refused all these suggestions. This only compounded the situation to reach such an apocalyptic human tragedy,” they said.

Without going into all the “acts of commission and omission” by the Central government that have brought the country to such a “tragic pass”, the opposition leaders demanded that the new measures suggested by them must be undertaken on a war footing.

“Procure vaccines centrally from all available sources – global and domestic. 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 crore for the vaccines,” the leaders said in their letter.

“Stop Central Vista construction. Use the allocated money for procuring oxygen and vaccines, instead. Release all money held in the unaccounted private trust fund, PM Cares to buy more vaccines, oxygen and medical equipment required,” they also told the prime minister.

The opposition leaders also demanded giving all jobless at least Rs 6,000 per month and free distribution of foodgrains to the needy, saying over one crore tonnes of foodgrains are currently “rotting in central godowns”.

“Repeal farm laws to protect lakhs of our annadatas becoming victims of the pandemic, so that they can continue to produce food to feed the Indian people,” they said.

“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 leaders said in the letter.

The letter comes on a day India witnessed a record rise in COVID-19 deaths with 4,205 fresh fatalities taking the overall toll to 2,54,197, while 3,48,421 new coronavirus infections were also reported.

The total tally of COVID-19 cases in the country now stands at 2,33,40,938.