NEW DELHI :
In a first since the coronavirus outbreak in the country nearly three months ago, opposition parties came together virtually on Friday to hold a meeting chaired by Congress party Sonia Gandhi to discuss the fallout of the covid-19 over 50 day national lockdown which was imposed to control its spread.
Some of the key issues taken up in the meeting included discussion over the situation of migrants, their return to home and services required to assist them. Opposition leaders also discussed the current economic situation in the country, requirement for more financial assistance from the Union government, consequences of an extended lockdown and need for the centre to make all political parties stakeholders in the fight against the pandemic.
The meeting was attended by senior leaders of 22 “like minded parties" including several chief ministers like Uddhav Thackeray of Maharashtra, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Hemant Soren of Jharkhand.
Nationlist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Janata Dal (Secular) chief H D Devegowda and general secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury among other senior leaders also attended the meeting.
The meeting, which was held via video conferencing today in the afternoon, was however given a miss by two key opposition party leaders from Uttar Pradesh – Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Speaking about the third extension of the national lockdown, Gandhi raised concerns over its effectiveness. “I am also of the view that the government was uncertain about the criteria for lockdowns, nor does it have an exit strategy. Successive lockdowns have yielded diminishing returns," she said in her opening remarks. She added that economy was gravely crippled and the economic package announced was a ‘cruel joke’ on people.
“That the present government has no solutions is worrying but that it has no empathy or compassion for the poor and vulnerable is heartbreaking. The government has also abandoned any pretence of being a democratic government," she said adding that powers were centralized in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and there was no indication either if the two Houses of Parliament or the standing committees would be summoned to meet.
Apart from this, the opposition parties also discussed the current situation due to Cyclone Amphan particularly in the two key affected states of West Bengal and Odisha. The opposition parties passed a resolution in the meeting demanding that the union government should immediately declare it as a national calamity and aid states in relief and rehabilitation work.