Congress pushes for common minimum relief programme for displaced migrant workers

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The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, on Thursday had its first-ever virtual meeting to discuss the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, where party chief Sonia Gandhi asked the Union government to come out with a ‘common minimum relief programme’ and asserted that the unplanned lockdown caused “chaos and pain for migrant workers.”

A statement from the CWC said that “the Congress pledges to continue its unstinted support’ but pointed out the ‘grave shortcomings in the spirit of cooperation and constructive criticism’.

“The CWC demands that the government should immediately appoint an economic task force consisting of world renowned economists to suggest three plans: an emergency plan within one week; a short to medium-term plan within one month; and a medium to long-term plan within three months in order to protect and revive the economy,” All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary KC Venugopal and party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said at an online media interaction.

In her opening remarks to the CWC, Ms Gandhi said, “The 21-day national lockdown may have been necessary but the unplanned manner in which it has been implemented has caused chaos and pain in the lives of millions of migrant workers all over India. It has been heartbreaking to see lakhs of people walking for hundreds of kilometres towards their villages without food or shelter.”

The CWC stressed on the urgent need to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers, relief to farmers who have been hit just ahead of the Rabi harvesting season and to small and medium entrepreneurs, income support to informal workers and protection to middle class people from wage cuts and job losses.

“I urge the Central government to prepare and publish a common minimum relief programme. This is vital and will help alleviate several of the concerns that currently afflict all people,” she said, adding that “COVID-19 doesn’t distinguish between ideology, religion, caste, age or gender.”

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