The Covid 19 pandemic has already spread to all countries in the world. The number of patients is reaching around 2 million, and the dead more than 1,00, 000, with tens of millions under quarantine or isolation. Only in China, South Korea and Cuba these numbers started declining, with the first hot spot Wuhan removing lockdown after 76 days. The West European countries, England and US are presently the main hot spots, with the US having the largest number of patients. The pandemic is still spreading with no end in sight. Everywhere stock markets are crashing, GDP growth rate falling and unemployment shooting up, raising the danger of global recession. The emergence of such viruses or mutation of old viruses, according to scientists, are taking place directly linked to the increasing climate change, as a result of plunder of nature by the global capitalist imperialist system, with the drive of finance capital for super maximization of profit reaching extreme limits, raising the threat of ecological catastrophe.
The first case of Covid19 was confirmed in China by the end of December. The first case in India was detected in Kerala on 30th January among Wuhan evacuees.. But, in spite of WHO declaring Covid outbreak as Public health emergency of international concern on 30th January, the central government started screening and testing international passengers at airports from 6th March only. Even when WHO declared Covid19 as a Pandemic on 11th March, Modi government had not taken any serious steps to prepare the people for it. The screening and testing of international passengers formally started only on 6th March, but still not strictly enforced. This was because there were not enough testing kits. The procurement of new testing kits and the development and production of the same was not approached with the urgency it deserved.
In this situation, PM Modi addressing the nation on 19th March and calling for Janatha Curfew on 22nd March was an abrupt decision without prior planning, preparation, and creating awareness, without taking the people or the state governments, or UTs in to confidence. As many of the state governments calling lockdowns from 23rd morning, a chaotic atmosphere was created. When the government had adopted the strategy of immediate and complete lock-down, it should have made adequate arrangements for the same. Subsequent events have shown that no arrangements had been made. No proper arrangements were made to reach food and essentials immediately to the people. No arrangements had been made to provide money to the people. No proper camps had been set up in adequate numbers. No arrangements had been made to reach migrant workers back to their villages safely and to test them or quarantine them in their villages. No thought had been given to sick and infirm. Not only that, even after 18 days of lockdown, such arrangements are still not in place. In short, the PM and the BJP government seems to have thought that they have to issue orders only for people to stay at home and people would fend for themselves even without stepping out of the house. It was like ambushing the workers. When the workers decided to walk back with great hardship as there were no adequate arrangements for them, they were met by brute force by the police and put into camps resembling concentration camps, with many thousands more stranded at different places. There are reports that the facilities and food at such camps are sub-human. This was the worst possible way to tackle the problem.
On the one hand, when the FCI godowns have 75 million ton of old stock of food grains, the state governments are not given sufficient quantity of food grains for issuing free and adequate supply of rations to people. The almost 30 crores of jobless people in the slums, in the shelters and at different centers where the workers are stranded are not getting sufficient food or medi-care. The workers who lost jobs are not given wages. No allowances are given to all others who lost jobs also. In this situation starvation deaths may take place at any time. It is like throwing casual/contract workers and toiling masses in to ventilator along with the whole economy.
Now, by 11th April, the number of Covid patients have crossed 7,000 and th dead 200, with the pandemic spreading to more areas. On 3rd March the WHO had issued a statement asking for industry to increase production of face masks and for Governments to give incentives to industry for this. But, the central government has given no incentive for this. For production of ventilators also no grant or incentive has been given. For all this the Government is clearly responsible. No immediate measures were taken to supply safety gears and essential items even to doctors and medical staff, leading to unusually large number of them getting infected and hospitalized even now. In spite of being warned months before, the central government could not take measures to procure necessary medicines and equipments including testing kits and ventilators when they are needed.. So, when in south Korea testing rates are 7659 for one million, it is only 32 in India. It is in this context, the controversy with regard to export of Choloroqine to US should be seen. As internationalists, we are for helping the different countries at this difficult juncture, by providing medicines also. So, we consider it was wrong on the part of Modi government to put a total ban on all exports of medicines and equipment in the first place. But, then to withdraw it in the face of Trump’s open threat was pathetic.
At the same time, while all these glaring weaknesses of the Modi government to confront the Covid threat were getting exposed, similar to what RSS/BJP did during the anti-CAA movement, they made conscious efforts to blatantly use the Tablighi Jamaat incident to spread Islamophobia to divert attention of the people. While Tablighi leaders deserves criticism for their unserious approach about it, it is the the Delhi government and Delhi police mainly responsible for creating such a situation. At the same time, the call for observing 9 minutes at 9 pm on 5th April during Ram Navami week was religious in itself as lighting of diyas has Hindu religious significance. For receiving contributions for relief, when already there is PM Relied Fund, there was no need to make a new fund, PM Cares. These steps by the BJP leadership did not in any way help in mobilizing all the people in the fight against Covid19.
In this grave situation, from the time PM Modi announced on 19h March to observe the Janatha Curfew on 22nd March, in spite of all our ccriticisms against the way his government handled the fight against Covid19, the CPI(ML) Red Star along with class/mass organizations are active in the relief work in whichever way possible. It is in this context, the Central Committee of the CPI(ML) Red Star is putting forward following proposals and demands before the central and state governments for urgent necessary action. All party committees are called upon to continue their involvement in the relief work, and to campaign among the people and mobilize them for realization of these demands:
Our Proposals and demands are:1. We propose to the central government that all important decisions regarding the fight against Covid19 should be taken in consultation with the state governments in accordance with the spirit of federalism, as it is the state governments and the Union Territories’ administration who are in the forefront taking the full burden of screening, testing, isolating, quarantining and treating of the suspects and patients, arranging shelters and food for the migrant workers, ration for people etc. We also propose that for implementation of the relief work, the central government should maintain regular communication with state governments, between ruling and opposition parties, between government and mass organizations and civil societies, and mobilize people’s involvement wherever necessary. We propose to the state governments and administration of the UTs to form people’s committees, involving political parties, trade unions, women’s groups, youth, mass organizations and volunteer forces along with local body members, at the local/grassroots level, for preparing and distributing food, for making medicines, shelter and other essential amenities available to the needy and for coordinating such activities avoiding bureaucratic delays.
- The Covid19 pandemic is a grave national disaster. To fight against it and to provide relief to people requires enormous funds. So, the economic package of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore announced by the Modi government amounts to nothing. For providing Rs 8,000 per month for three months to 25 crore workers’ families requires around 6 lakh crores. Another 3 lakh crores for medical expenses, camps expenses, etc. Allowances for the migrant workers in the informal sectors like hawkers etc, to slum dwellers, fisher people, to the rural poor, assistance to farmers etc requires about 6 lakhs crore. So, totally atleast Rs. 15 lakh crores is required. Our proposals are: Through taxation of or contributions from temples, matts, churches, masjids, Gurudwaras, etc Rs. 2 lakh crores; As taxation of corporates was almost 7 lakh crores last year, a 50% increase in corporate tax for this year will yield around 3.5 lakh crores; We can take it that the PM Care and PM Relief Fund has already got Rs. 1 lakh crore in it; All unnecessary and avoidable expenses like Rs. 20,000 crore beautification fund for Luwten at New Delhi, MPs’ fund etc. also yield one lakh crore; The remaining amount can be taken from the huge foreign exchange reserves of over $ 480 billion we have.
- Even 20 days after the clamping of countrywide lockdown, the central government has not come out so far with any concrete proposals about what it intends to do after the completion of the 21 days’ lockdown. While many state governments have suggested continuation of lockout in their states, there are also opinions supporting the selective withdrawal of lockdown after 14thApril as was done in China and now in South Korea and some other countries. Our proposal is, whatever decision is taken, it should be based on the opinion of the experts, scientists and doctors. It should not be a political decision as was done by Modi government till now. Meanwhile, categorisation of different areas in the country according to COVID risks can be looked in to. Hot spots/infection cluster can be locked down to avoid community spread.
- Make arrangements for increasing testing as WHO repeatedly point out. Many places need facilities for testing for doubtful cases. For this test kits, doctors, medical staff, etc should be made available. Testing and everything connected with the pandemic should be free. Isolating the hot spots, intensify testing including random testing using rapid test kits. Implement isolation and quarantine of all suspects, better treatment and food to patients, make all medical requirements available everywhere and utilize services of medical and nursing students and other volunteers. We demand that the state government should take control of all private hospitals to speed up testing and treatment of the patients. Ensure adequate pay, allowance and compensation for doctors and medical and paramedical staff with.
- We demand the following for the workers:
- Issue an ordinance immediately to treat the full period of the lockdown as period on duty for all workers including contract workers, casual workers, NEEM workers, etc. All must be paid full wages for this period. Non-payment of such a wage to any person who was working as on 10thMarch 2020 will be a punishable offence besides attracting interest and penalty.
- Declare a moratorium on closures, lock-outs, strikes, lay-offs, etc pending the lockdown.
- Give payment of Rs. 8000 per month, every month till the lifting of the lockdown to all workers who are unemployed / rendered unemployed during this period.
- We demand that for MSMEs the government must give support of Rs. 8000 per month for each worker, provided that they pay the full wages to all workers. This may be applicable to all establishments wherein less than 100 workers are employed and whose average (PF) wage is below Rs. 15000 per month (this was also the criterion in the speech of the FM to define small establishments). This will not be an extra expenditure for the Government as these workers come within the 25 crore families to be helped.
- For peasantry :
- The Government must immediately fix Minimum support prices and must make arrangements for procuring the food grains of the peasantry directly at such minimum support prices as the Rabi crop is now due for cutting.
- Immediate help must be given to peasantry by extending the moratorium on loans which has already been declared for 3 months to 6 months. This must cover not just the principal but the interest also. (This means that the banks will get the same emi in September which was to be paid in March and for the same period. Only the payment is deferred).
- Enhance the minimum daily payment to MNREGA workers to Rs. 500, increase the number of days of work to 240, with the central government increasing its support to the states/UTs
- For the urban poor :
- Immediate camps must be set up to allow them to obtain food, medicines and essentials free of cost or at cheap rates in each slum. Such camps must be well stocked and must be the responsibility of the state Government
- Such camps must be in all areas and must be with arrangements for staying. People must have the choice to either stay or obtain food from there.
- All rents must be waived by an ordinance for the period of the lockdown.
- For those who want to go back to their villages, proper arrangements with physical distancing must be made.
- Medical Demands :
- Medical personnel must be provided proper gear and all necessary equipment without stint
- Testing must be increased to around one per thousand of the population. Only such testing will allow for proper control
- The period of lockdown must be used for extensive testing and identifying the sites most vulnerable. The rest of the country can be slowly allowed to come out of lockdown in a scientific manner
- The production of sufficient equipment and drugs must be provided for either by incentives or any other means.
- Millions of Indian workers are stranded in labour camps in the gulf countries. It is reported that infected persons are also living in the same room where upto 20 workers stay. No free treatment is available to them. The governments there have offered all help to evacuate these workers. The Central and state govts should take immediate steps for their earliest repatriation, and arrangement of proper shelters and medical treatment till then.
- When the country is facing a pandemic of unprecedented dimension, most of the burden has come over the poorest sections and the toiling classes . The administration and police should ensure that all atrocities against them should be stopped and that they are treated with compassion. Take action against those who indulged in violence against them.
- We demand that all attempts to create communal division using the isolated Tablighi Jamaat incident,should be stopped.
- As Indian jails are overcrowded, social distancing and treatment for Covid19 is impossible there. We demand that all political prisoners, all under trials and convicted prisoners should be released on parole during the perod of lockdown.
- Utilizing the scarcity created during the lockdown, hoarders, black marketers and speculators are creating further difficulty to people. They should be firmly put down.
- At a time when scientific temper should be strengthened, making people aware to follow scientific medical instructions and hygienic habits, strict action should be taken against all those who spread superstitious ideas. All religious assemblies of more than four, of all denominations, affecting the fight against Covid19 should be strictly stopped.
- We demand that the central government should develop the facilities with the ICMR to develop medicine for this pandemic. India should join the international solidarity of nations headed by WHO in the ongoing coordinated effort to develop anti-Corona vaccine at the earliest.
For the Central Committee, CPI (ML) Redstar
11th April 2020