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Opposition Leaders Call Lockdown Extension 'Amazing' but Find PM's Speech 'Hollow'

Congress leaders Sashi Tharoor, P Chidambaram as well as Abhishek Singhvi took to Twitter to slam Mod's address } Image credit: PTI/Reuters

Congress leaders Sashi Tharoor, P Chidambaram as well as Abhishek Singhvi took to Twitter to slam Mod's address } Image credit: PTI/Reuters

'The poor have been left to fend for themselves for 21+19 days, including practically soliciting food. There is money, there is food, but the government will not release it' P Chidambaram said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced an extension of the 21-day lockdown, designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, till May 3. He also outlined several guidelines and rules regarding supervised relaxation of lockdown in areas where COVID-19 is contained.

The announcement came amid rising cases of coronavirus in India, which on Monday crossed 10,000, and mounting deaths which crossed 350. While news of the extension of the lockdown was roundly appreciated as the need of the hour, opposition leaders expressed concerns about some other important aspects or issues relevant to the lockdown that the PM's speech missed.

Taking to Twitter, Congress leader Sashi Tharoor appreciated Modi's call to extend the lockdown. "I support the announcement by

@PMOIndia @narendraModi of #Lockdown extension. Can't discard the gains being made," Tharoor tweeted in a surprising show of solidarity.

The Thiruvananthapuram MP, however, went on to add that the PM should also have "announced serious relief for those who cannot make ends meet. MNREGA payments, JanDhan accounts, GST dues to states, and aid to sweeten the pill".

Congress leader and spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi found Modi's address "amazing" and sarcastically said that though it was full of "exhortation, rhetoric, inspiration," it was "hollow on specifics!". He agreed that the lockdown was "good" but also added that the total lockdown cannot simply be the solution for all. "No financial package, no details, no concrete item. Neither 4poor nor middle class nor industry nor businesses".

Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram also expressed concerns about the poor and underprivileged who had allegedly been left out of the country's efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

He started by saying that he understood the compulsion to extend the lockdown and supported the decision but added that the government had not heeded the advice of economists and experts like John Dreze, Prabhat Patnaik, Raghuram Rajan, and Abhijit Bhattacharya.

"The poor have been left to fend for themselves for 21+19 days, including practically soliciting food. There is money, there is food, but the government will not release either money or food. Cry, my beloved country," the senior leader wrote on Twitter.

Congress leader Manish Tewari also slammed PM Modi for comparing the numbers of Covid-19 deaths and infection with that of other countries as this is a human tragedy. Tewari told the media that this is a human tragedy no nation should suffer due to the virus. "It is not appropriate for the Prime Minister to compare the numbers with other countries but could have said that we are better equipped than other countries," he said.

The comments came in response to PM Modi's global comparison with India's situation to suggest how strict and early measures helped India arrest the surge, said: "India started screening at airports even before we had one corona positive patient in India... Even though we had 550 cases, India took a big decision to completely shutdown India. We didn't wait for the problem to erupt." The Congress has, nevertheless, demanded that the government should give bonus on Minimum Support Price (MSP), which could be Rs 500. The party also demanded that since the government has already decided that the economy could wait as lives are important, then it needs to come up with equally effective welfare measures to ensure the preservation of life.

Apart from Congress, DMK leader P Thiaga Rajan also called out Prime Minister Modi's speech, taking a dig at previous speeches where Modi had requested Indians to beat plates and light candles on two separate occasions. He also accused the PM of "lying through his teeth", possibly in reference to the PM's claim that India started coronavirus testing early on, and of "playing petty catch-up politics".

With a total lockdown affecting livelihoods, PM Modi on Tuesday announced that rules regarding relaxation of lockdown after April 21 in areas that have contained the virus. Detailed guidelines are expected to be released by Wednesday.

(With inputs from IANS)

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