August 01, 2021


CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE monsoon session of parliament began on a stormy note on July 19 as a united opposition protested over several issues, including farm laws, fuel price hike and Pegasus snooping controversy. Due to this, PM Narendra Modi was even unable to introduce his new ministers to parliament as is customary after a reshuffle.

On July 20, the Rajya Sabha held a short duration discussion on management of Covid-19 pandemic, implementation of vaccination policy and challenges of likely third wave. Speaking on this issue, Party MP Elamaram Kareem hailed the frontline health workers, police personnel, ASHA workers and anganwadi workers who are fighting in the forefront to control the spread of the coronavirus. Below we publish the text of his speech:

The first Covid case in India was reported in the end of January, 2020. Till the date of announcement of lockdown, we had around two months in hand. This time was not effectively utilised by the government for planning our course of action. The incidents such as migrant exodus and unnecessary panic among the citizens are the result of this lack of planning and lack of awareness among the people. Even then, we did not learn. The alarming countrywide surge of the second wave of Covid has thrown the lives of the people in total jeopardy. The daily infection count had become the world's highest for so many days. The number of daily deaths too had surged. A substantial part of the deaths were preventable as they were caused due to non-availability of basic infrastructure, oxygen, hospital beds and essential medicines.

The vaccine policy of the Government of India puts profit over the precious lives of the people. The inefficiency, negligence and miseries which wasted one precious year only with sound-bites to media, instead of making adequate preparations by strengthening and expanding the public health system and vaccine production, has created this alarming situation, throwing the lives of the people in total jeopardy. In our country, so far the vaccinations were free and universal. At a time when the states were not given the promised doses of vaccine, it had severely affected the first phase of vaccination itself.

Everything is being utilised for the publicity of the government. In all the areas we could see hoardings thanking the government for announcing the new vaccine policy. What is the reality? The discriminatory vaccine policy of the government had attracted countrywide criticism and the Supreme Court itself was forced to intervene in the vaccine policy. All these have compelled the government to withdraw the anti-people vaccine policy and announce the present one. The government was actually forced to withdraw its faulty and disastrous vaccine policy as a result of strong opposition. The people will reject the condemnable effort by the prime minister through his national broadcast to level false charges against the state governments and shift the responsibility. We could see that the failed vaccine policy has not been fully reversed.

The government has chosen to continue dual pricing policy. As much as 25 per cent of vaccine production is still reserved for the private sector; that vaccine goes to the upper class of society. This is nothing but a license for loot by private manufacturers to make super profits. Further, at the time of acute vaccine shortage, continuation of such a policy will dilute and weaken the need for universal vaccination which is essential to prevent a third wave of coronavirus. Only the rich can afford the exorbitant pricing of vaccines by the private hospitals permitted by the government. Our party, CPI(M) had demanded for the withdrawal of the 25 per cent reservation for the private sector. The central government must procure all the vaccines manufactured in India and buy globally and distribute it to states in consultation with them.

During the second wave of Covid, India recorded 4,529 deaths in a single day, more deaths due to Covid in a single day than any other country in the world anytime during the pandemic. The number of daily new cases and the number of daily deaths which crossed 4 lakh and 4,500 respectively are reported to be gradually coming down, though not uniformly across the country. According to international and national experts, these figures are highly under-reported. The actual number of infections and deaths are estimated to be at least 5-10 times more.

During the first wave, we have seen shocking images of thousands of migrant workers with their families and children marching hundreds of kilometres on the road and railway tracks. Many died on the way due to exhaustion and hunger. In the second wave, the disease spread even to remote villages where there is hardly any health infrastructure or medical facilities and it affected more young persons. The visuals of Covid patients outside hospitals, waiting for hours and days for a bed, many dying before they could get one, were horrifying. Several patients, till then unknown to each other, sharing one oxygen cylinder on the pavement outside a hospital; families unable to find slots to cremate their dear ones; bodies floating on the holy river of Ganges; entire families wiped out within days; hundreds of children left orphaned; overstressed doctors, nurses and other medical staff. These horrifying images will be haunting us for years to come.

Despite the disease being found in the country in January 2020 itself and spreading in several states, the government did not act with the required urgency to contain its spread during the first wave. The government failed in addressing the second wave also. The world has already faced the second and third waves. None of this has opened the eyes of the government.

Lakhs of workers have lost their employment and income. According to CMIE report, 12.2 crore labourers have lost their jobs due to the lockouts and as there was shutdown or other actions. The number of employment in 2021 was 39.3 crores which was reduced to 28.2 crores in the month of April 2021. Over 41 lakh youth have lost their employment. In the pandemic package, the poor people who have lost their incomes are not compensated. This attitude of the government should change and they should be given financial help.