Govt’s Handling of Covid-19 Borders on Criminal Negligence: Prashant Bhushan

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PM Modi Address to Nation

He said the government failed to nip the pandemic in the bud by not carrying out effective screening and testing of the inbound passengers coming from outside India

Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Prashan Bhushan, senior Supreme Court advocate and activist, who has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court on the handling of the coronavirus situation by the Narendra Modi government, has said that the Central government has committed gross mismanagement in dealing with covid-19 situation which borders on criminal negligence.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire on Tuesday, he also said that this ‘mismanagement’ needed to be investigated by an independent commission headed by a former Supreme Court judge.

Bhushan talked about his PIL and the charges he levelled in his petition against the government regarding the mishandling of the situation emanating from the outbreak of the pandemic.

“How can you take a decision like a nationwide lockdown, one of the most severe lockdowns in the world, without planning for it, without consulting your own experts, etc.? It’s like the decision for the note ban taken without consulting even the Reserve Bank governor, without consulting even his own Finance Minister. The Prime Minister himself took the decision without consulting any expert. It has a devastating effect on the economy. Just as this lockdown caused far more damage than what it has done to prevent the spread of covid,” said Bhushan.

He said the government failed to nip the pandemic in the bud by not carrying out effective screening and testing of the inbound passengers coming from outside India. Till 23 March, only 19% passengers coming from abroad had been screened. Modi and the BJP violated the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs to avoid crowd contacts by holding the ‘Namaste Trump’ event on 24 February with 1 lakh people attending the event in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad.

The event, Bhushan asserted, made Ahmedabad the worst hotspot of Coronavirus. “Why was the event allowed in violation of home ministry as well as the WHO guidelines?” he asked, and pointed to the fact that the BJP was busy bringing down the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and formed its own government violating these guidelines amid the pandemic.

Talking about the sudden imposition of the lockdown, Bhushan said the Prime Minister had unilaterally enforced the nationwide lockdown without consulting the experts and the state governments. He cited the recommendations of Indian Council of Medical Research (IMCR) which says the lockdown is not a good strategy but the testing and the quarantine of the infected people will be a better strategy.

He said the government had formed a Task Force of the experts for adoption of the strategy for the pandemic on 18 March. But the Prime Minister announced the lockdown even before the Task Force presented any recommendation in this regard. He said the people whom the government were consulting for handling the pandemic were not the experts but were generalists.

Bhushan also targeted the government for its failure to provide PPE kits to the medical workers and doctors and said the government did not do anything for manufacturing the PPE kits till the end of March which led to an acute shortage of the kits.

He also pointed to the migrant crisis which ensued after the lockdown was imposed all over the country. He said the government had no national plan as per the National Disaster Management Act to deal with the situation created due to the lockdown. The government also had no plans to send home those migrants who were suffering due to the lockdown.

He demanded to appoint a commission of inquiry headed by a former Supreme Court judge to look into the handling of the pandemic by the government. “It will look into what the government has done so far and what it should have done which it had not done so that the lessons can be learnt for the future.”

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