DR.T. SUMATHY (A) THAMIZHACHI THANGAPANDIAN (CHENNAI SOUTH):
COVlD-19 is an imported disease and self-inflicted disaster. It was originated in China and spread to all countries through humans only. The first COVID-19 positive case was identified in Kerala on 31 January 2020. Thereafter, it started to rise through further arrival of foreign passengers and their immediate contacts. So, the Government and everyone knew about the veracity of COVID-19 by January and February 2020 itself. No one can dispute it.
By the time, that is, 18 March 2020, the Union Government had decided to stop all international passenger flights and banned the entry of anyone from abroad, almost an estimated 25 lakh passengers from abroad have entered and dispersed across various States, corners of India. Thus, the Coronavirus crisis started in India, a big blunder which could not be resolved till date.
If the Government acted in time, that is, January or February and stopped those arriving from abroad and isolated those arrived for a month or so, then the country might not get this virus entry into every corner of the country and the common man might not be at a receiving end. Due to lethargic and improperly acts of the Government the virus spread across the country. The Government should shoulder the responsibility as it failed to act in time and now crushing the common man who is vulnerable and unbearable to the situation. It is not even extending any sufficient relief to those in need. Several households are facing food scarcity. I just leave it to the hon. Members sitting in this august House to understand and judge where, when and how it went wrong to reach this unbearable lockdown.
The life of migrant labourers is beyond all levels of suffering. The pictures of the migrant workers leaving the cities by foot with their luggage in one hand, holding the children in other, many young men carrying their aged mother or father on their shoulders, the small children walking along with their parents in sweltering heat without chappals will be etched in our sad memories forever.
The ghastly images of migrant workers smashed by a goods train in Maharashtra cannot be deleted from the dark pages of history which happened due to the inefficiency and incompetence of the ruling Government.
The Government at the Centre blaming the State Governments for their grave mistakes has become a common phenomenon. The ill effects and ground reality due to COVlD-19 lockdown on the people of this country is still not ascertained properly. Barring the people who get a regular income monthly as salary or pension, all others are suffering a lot. Out of the 138-crore population, 100 crores are plunged into deep trouble. People working as daily wage labourers, those working in unorganised sector, farm workers, migrant labourers from various categories, lorry, tempo, taxi and auto drivers, domestic workers have suffered severely due to this self-inflicted COVID-19 crisis.
In India, there are around one crore drivers who earn their livelihood through driving vehicles from lorry, bus, car and auto rickshaws. The five months lockdown has destroyed their career beyond recuperation. Those who had borrowed loan from banks or private lenders for their taxis and autos were unable to pay their loan dues. They too have a family living in a single room house with aged parents, unmarried sisters, wives and children. We just cannot imagine the difficulties faced by them during the lockdown period.
All I want to say is that the Government has not applied its mind and have not done enough homework to be in the state of preparedness and readiness to fight COVlD-19 crisis. The Government either failed to analyse the inputs reaching from China and other countries when the COVlD-19 started there in December or it is the blatant failure of intelligence and diplomats working in China and abroad. Nevertheless, we had three full months of time to prepare and plan to combat COVlD-19 but failed miserably to be prepared. This is due to the Government’s preoccupation to prepare for the extravaganza related to the personal visit of US President during 23rd to 24th February, 2020.
Secondly, when the entire world was busy in preparation to fight COVID-19, the ruling Government was cunningly, cleverly and keenly focused only on dislodging the duly elected Government in Madhya Pradesh using unethical means. This greediness to derail the duly elected Government has made the Government insane and insensitive to the early warnings of some senior MPs and leaders of opposition parties and the Government continued to run Parliament till 23rd March, 2020, when the Government mission was successfully accomplished a day before. Madhya Pradesh Government was captured and the very next day full lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister and it came into effect all over the country without any thoughts on the people, especially the migrant workers. That is why when COVID-19 started to spread in India, we did not have even testing kits with us or laboratories to check and ascertain the COVlD-19 patients. There was very low production of protective gears, PPEs, masks, gloves and we lagged far behind in the supply of sanitisers too. That is the reason why India could not respond effectively to fight against Corona and the numbers got increased.
In India, regular testing started happening only in the first week of March after the emergence of the first few cases. Starting with just one laboratory, the Pune-based National Institute of Virology, that was testing samples at that time, India now managed to have a network of more than 1,100 laboratories that are conducting these diagnostic tests. More than two lakh samples are being tested every day. Considering the large population, the penetration of testing is still quite low. India’s testing numbers per one million population are still low compared to many other countries.
The Government says that economy was badly affected during COVID-19 lockdown. Agreed. But was our economy booming in the previous years of this Government? No. It is getting bad to worse and worse to worst in the last six years and has reached point of no return at the moment. Today, I have no hesitation in saying that our country’s economy is pushed a clear 20 years back and it will take several years of herculean works to set it right and put it back.
In this precarious condition, the country’s economy is reeling under tremendous pressure and distress. Our country’s GDP will certainly show a negative growth. The humongous damage caused to our economy before and after COVID-19 has pushed us to years backward. It may take six years or more for our country to reach the same position India was in 2013. That too, if a steady 8-10 per cent growth in GDP is achieved in the next six years. But as of now, we have -23.9 per cent GDP. The internal debt of the country has crossed Rs. 100 lakh crore. This means we have already lost 12 years. I wish the Government do not commit any hara-kiri and also hope that there will be no more big calamities or any self-inflicted catastrophe.
On the financial front, actually, the Union government should have convened a Special Session of Parliament to recalculate and recalibrate the income possibilities and expenditure priorities as the already passed Budget is by now unrealistic. The Budget 2020-21 passed by Parliament looks unachievable due to the loss of time and opportunities. The priorities have changed drastically after the COVlD-19 crisis. The provisions made for many projects could be modified, postponed or withdrawn accordingly. It is, therefore, very important to have a Revised Budget 2020-21 with more emphasis on new initiatives with adequate financial provisions to mitigate the issues and problems encountered by the people aftermath of COVlD-19 lockdown crisis. It is, therefore, my humble request to the hon. Prime Minister and the Finance Minister to convene a Special Session of Parliament and make suitable changes in Budget 2020-21 and make it practically achievable.
Government of India should openly announce the details of the trade and economic deals, bilateral treaties signed with China in the last six years and explain to the people of our country why the Modi Government has signed such deals with the brutal and treacherous country like China in the last six years in spite of heavy opposition from nationalists from various corners of the country.
The adamant behaviour of leaders of both countries fully know the imminent danger and disadvantages faced by our country due to these treaties and trade deals. For whose benefit these deals and treaties are signed? Order for an independent authority to probe and find the intricacies of the trade deficits and economic imbalances in these deals and treaties. It is high time for the Government to speak the truth with the common public. Otherwise History will punish the people who are responsible for this debacle beyond just words.
The COVlD-19 crisis has left every profession and professional in the-lurch, be it a Doctor or Engineer or Lawyer, a category of people who have established their career and serving the society. The medical practitioners and their staff are the most affected, and in fighting COVID-19, many in this medical field have lost their invaluable lives. The Engineering professionals and IT professionals were affected very much due to the COVlD-19 lockdown.
The COVID-19 crisis has worsened the life of genuine lawyers and their clients who solely depends on justice to be delivered in time. Justice delayed is Justice denied. Courts in India are paralyzed by COVlD-19 crisis and plagued by the shortage of Judges. The Union Law Ministry is on “Kumbhakarna Sleep Mode”.
There are 60,000 cases pending in the Supreme Court, and 45 lakh cases in 25 High Courts in the country. At the District and subordinate court levels, the number of pending cases stand at a shocking Rs. 3.14 crore as of November 2019. 27 lakh of these cases are less than years old, 8.5 lakh are pending for more than five years but less than 10 years and 8.5 lakh are over 10 year old.
The COVlD-19 crisis has paralyzed, and the lockdown has knocked down the Judicial System, and most of the genuine lawyers have literally knocked out of jobs, became incomeless, clients shed tears of blood. But as far as the Judges and court staffs like Registrars, Assistant Registrars, Court Marshals etc. are concerned, they enjoy a paid lockdown. There is not a single penny loss, though they work just 20-30 per cent to their capacity and capabilities.
COVID-19 has robbed the people three months of court proceedings and genuine open court arguments. In the absence of any personal interaction or open court hearings, the Registry departments of Courts have become the Demi Gods and the Judges have literally turned into invisible Lords.
The Indian judiciary is already suffering due to the shortage of judges. Nearly 40 per cent of sanctioned number of Judges are still unfilled. Unfortunately, the Union Law Ministry and Ministerial people of State Governments are sleeping as if heavens are not going to fall. If the courts are not functioning to its full potential, the Government is least bothered of the dangerous consequences of paralyzing of our Judicial System not working to the fullest capacity and potential. When everything is lost, people look up on Judiciary and Justice, and if that Judicial System is not working to the desired levels, a kind of alleged Police excess and lawlessness in the society is inevitable. It is time to wake up or else expect a catastrophe. Hope the top ranks in the Government and Judiciary will discuss, deliberate and come up with some real solution to address this unprecedented lockdown in Judicial system.
If the COVID-19 situation is not going to improve, and if the Government of India does not intervene, next few months will witness that several lakh people packing their baggage permanently back to India. As per the recent data, there are about 1.5 crore NRls and 2 crore PlOs living all around the World. The COVID-19 may force at least one quarter of this 1.5 crore NRl population and 10 per cent of the 2.5 crore PIOs return to India which means at least 50 lakh people who had a settled life would be unsettled and forced to come back. Countries like Australia, Bahrein, Bhutan, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UAE, UK and USA have large NRl population. While Australia, Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Guyana, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, UK and USA have large PlO population.
The plight of those people who were to return to these countries to continue their education, business or professional work will not be permitted until and unless COVlD-19 situation improves in India, thereby causing enormous stress and suffering to these people. The government should find a remedial solution to this crisis through the diplomatic routes. Otherwise, the life and career of these people will be lost.
COVID-19 crisis, if not for a comprehensive drug/vaccine to control the spread of the virus, would affect and alter the demography of the world countries in the coming months. Indian Diaspora is going to be the worst hit. I urge the Union Government to take all possible diplomatic and political administrative steps to stop or reduce this Demographic relocation.
The fishermen community in Tamil Nadu are one of the most affected communities in the country due to the COVID-19 crisis and the unprecedented and unplanned lockdown. Already, year after year, the fishermen of coastal Tamil Nadu were battered by natural calamities as well as from indiscreet interference by the Sri Lankan counterparts. The COVID-19 has completely collapsed their livelihood. Export of Fish and marine products has paralysed beyond recuperation at this juncture.
The coastal corridor in Tamil Nadu consists of 13 districts with 15 major ports and harbours, sandy beaches, lakes and river estuaries. Tamil Nadu has a fishermen population of 2 million and the coast consists of three major fishing harbours, three medium fishing harbours and 363 fish landing centres. Unfortunately, there have been several incidents of fighting for fishing rights between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen while fishing in the Palk Strait, where India and Sri Lanka are only separated by 12 nautical miles.
Fishing has to be recognised at par with agriculture. The fisher communities suffer very much due to natural calamities like cyclone, rough sea, heavy rains, heavy floods, hurricanes and tsunami. They need waiving of their loans by Government. COVlD-19 has created a very bad situation for fishermen. Governments at both Centre and State together should provide Rs. 5,000 to about Rs. 50,000 to poor fishermen in Tamil Nadu to mitigate the Coronavirus lockdown crisis.
The continuous increase in the price of petrol/diesel during the COVlD-19 crisis is like rubbing salt on the wounds. People sufferings have reached threshold levels. I urge the Union Government to act with compassion and common sense to reduce the escalating petrol/diesel prices immediately. It is high time for the Government to reduce the petrol and diesel prices. Otherwise, people will suffer from an unprecedented agony and pain.
India’s COVlD-19 scenario is going from “bad to worse” stage to “worse to the worst” stage and our hon. Prime Minister is busy in feeding peacock, writing poems and continue his rhetoric speeches like his usual monthly Mann Ki Baat. It took 110 days for COVID-19 cases in India to reach one lakh while just 59 days more to go past 10 lakhs. India’s COVID-19 cases rose from 10 lakh to 20 lakhs in 21 days and 20 lakhs to 30 lakhs in just 16 days. India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on 7th August and went past 30 lakhs on 23rd August. From 30 to 50 lakhs, an addition of 20 lakh cases took just three weeks. At this current rate, we can presume that by the end of September, India’s COVID-19 tally would easily cross 60 lakhs. With the death toll increasing steadily, there is no way we could expect normalcy by October or November. There could be possibility to impose the lockdown once again till a vaccine to curb COVlD-19 is discovered and distributed for public use. Let us see the further ‘Act of God’ is benevolent and merciful.
COVID-19 has not spared anyone. Even in the high-profile Ministers and Members of Parliament are being affected. Take the case of our Union Home Minister. He is the second most protected person in the country. Only the designated and approved individuals are allowed to meet him or come into any kind of physical proximity with him. Therefore, the hon. Home Minister getting infected by COVID-19 and that too when the country needs him 24/7, he was indisposed for several days. It needs to be probed to ascertain if there is any sabbatical move to curb the functioning of the all-powerful Minister. l urge the Government to initiate a fact-finding inquiry in this regard.
On one side, COVlD-19 has become the biggest health hazard and on the other side the country’s finance is shrinking like never before. When the finances drying up fast, with considerable decline in the revenue, the biggest problem for the Government will be, to fund its own projects in the coming months.
Sir, India is not an under developed country. But it has been ruined by underdeveloped minds. This Government has lost its focus and attention and drift away from economic priorities. But it seems to be happy to focus more on divisive religious ideologies and priorities. This Government is not a game changer but only a name changing Government. It is either a slogging Government or just a sloganeering Government. This Government needs mentoring on all aspects of politics, economy and public welfare. Electoral success will not guarantee a success in governance too. The real problem of the present Government is that if the pressing issues are not addressed properly, we might see a catastrophe in near future. What we need at the moment is a collective ‘Save India’ Movement not a ‘Slave India’ Movement.
I am really sorry to say that India has not only lost a golden opportunity to avert the COVlD-19, but it has failed beyond the recovery in all other fronts. It will be an uphill task for the Government and the people of our country to come out of the COVlD-19 crisis and its ill effects. As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, we have great people but miserable rulers at the moment. Whatever happened we cannot stop now. The most pathetic thing is that people at the helm of affairs at the Government in Tamil Nadu have indulged in corruption and siphoning of the amount designated for COVID-19 crisis. People are the ultimate sufferers due the inefficient Governments at Centre and at State which has damaged the social fabric of the country, including Tamil Nadu. This is the harsh and bitter truth. The difficulties of the people may increase manyfold once the lockdown is lifted but at the moment, there is no way the Government can lift the lockdown as the COVlD-19 cases in the country are increasing in lakhs each day and the death toll is reaching one lakh.
If this is the situation at the ground level today, I cannot imagine how bad it would turn out after two months when the cold weather and rains engulf the most of the country. COVID-19 crisis has left us with no other choice not because it is serious but because of the incapable, insensitive Governments at both Centre and State.