Congress president Sonia Gandhi took on the Centre over “anti-agriculture” farm legislations, its handling of the Covid pandemic, the economic slowdown in the country, and atrocities against Dalits.
Accusing the government of “demolishing” the economy, pushing the country into an “abyss” due to poor management of the coronavirus pandemic, and failing to “honour” the Constitution, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday said the Indian democracy was passing through its “most difficult phase”.
Presiding over a meeting of AICC General Secretaries and state-in-charges for the first time after a major organisational reshuffle last month, Gandhi also attacked the Centre over the “anti-agriculture” farm laws and atrocities against Dalits.
Gandhi claimed there was a “designed attack” on the Constitution and democratic traditions and that the country’s democracy was passing through its “most difficult phase”.
Citing the contentious farm laws, Gandhi said the country was being ruled by a government that was “systematically handing over the rights of citizens to a handful of crony capitalists.”
A “conspiracy” has been hatched to defeat the gains of the “green revolution”, she alleged. “Lives and livelihoods of crores of farm labourers, leasehold farmers, small and marginal farmers, toiling labourers and small shopkeepers are under attack. It is our solemn duty to join hands to defeat this sinister conspiracy,” she said.
The three farm bills — the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — were passed by Parliament recently. Subsequently, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bills.
The Congress, many other opposition parties and several farmers organisations have been protesting against these legislations, claiming that these would harm the interests of farmers and benefit corporates, a claim denied by the government. The Centre has asserted that these new laws would be beneficial for farmers and increase their income.
In her opening remarks at the meeting, Gandhi took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in the country. “The stark truth is that a prime minister who promised to defeat corona within 21 days has abdicated his and his government’s responsibility towards the citizens,” she said.
“All this happened as we witnessed the biggest unplanned and cruel migration of crores of migrant labourers as the government remained a mute spectator to their miseries. There is neither a plan nor strategic thinking, solution or a way ahead in the fight against the pandemic,” she added.
Speaking on the slump in GDP growth, Gandhi claimed that the government had simultaneously “demolished” the economy, built painstakingly by the hard work of fellow Indians and the vision of successive Congress governments.
“Never has the country witnessed such a free-fall in GDP as also all other economic indices. Today, the young have no jobs. Nearly 14 crore jobs have been lost. Small and medium businesses, small shopkeepers and other small enterprises are shutting at an unprecedented pace, yet an uncaring government remains a mute spectator,” the Congress president said.
She also accused the government of failing to honour its Constitutional responsibilities, saying the share of GST compensation was being denied to states. In a sharp retraction of its earlier position, the Finance Ministry last week said the Centre would borrow from the market to pay the GST compensation shortfall of Rs 1.1 lakh crore to states.
“How will the state governments help our people, if the government of India was to renege on its Constitutional obligations? This must be a first example of economic anarchy being spread by the central government,” Gandhi said.
In an apparent reference to the death of a 19-year-old Dalit girl, who was allegedly gangraped by four upper caste men in UP’s Hathras, Gandhi said the atrocities against Dalits had reached a “new zenith”.
“Instead of honouring the law and granting adequate protection to India’s daughters, the BJP governments are siding with criminals. The voice of oppressed families is being suppressed by the agencies of the state. Is this the new “Raj Dharma’?” she asked.
She exhorted the general secretaries and state in-charges to take on these challenges and stand with the people, saying this is what defines the Congress organisation.
“I am confident that all of you would toil hard and stand up to the forces attacking India and its people. Let us join hands to defeat the anti-democracy and autocratic designs of the ruling BJP,” she said.
“Persistent and determined struggle for the cause of people is the heart and soul of Indian National Congress. Even today, dedicated service of fellow citizens and determined fight against the injustice, inequity and discrimination in all spheres is the guiding light for every Congress men and women,” Gandhi said.