'It will take a long time for people's memory to be misled by a prime minister who is so arrogant and who refuses to acknowledge his own faults.'
The Shiv Sena's Rajya Sabha member Priyanka Chaturvedi, in her reply to the debate on Motion of Thanks to the President's Address to Parliament, strongly criticised Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi for accusing the Opposition of 'inciting' migrants to leave Mumbai after the nationwide lockdown was announced during the first wave of COVID-19.
If looking after the stranded migrants was wrong, Chaturvedi said then they would commit this mistake '100 times'.
Her statement came after Modi, in his speech, accused the Opposition-ruled governments in Maharashtra and Delhi of spreading COVID-19 in the country by facilitating migrant workers who wanted to go back to their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Modi was especially harsh on the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra for 'providing free train tickets to migrant labourers to lessen the burden on Maharashtra and to spread Covid (external link) in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar'.
"To blame somebody else speaks of the hypocrisy of the prime minister, who refuses to be held accountable to the people of this country," Chaturvedi tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
The PM accused the Maharashtra and Delhi governments of causing the spread of COVID-19 in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab. What are your views on his statement?
It is a very unfortunate comment to make by someone who failed on all counts in managing the spread of COVID-19 during the second wave.
The country cannot forget that the prime minister was busy in election rallies which had massive public mobilisation, which led to the spread of COVID-19.
People of this country will not forget that despite various departments telling him that we have to improve our infrastructure because the second wave was hitting other nations harder, he just sat thinking very confidently that we have surpassed the worst of COVID-19 and we will have no second wave.
And, it is in parliamentary records that many people were celebrating the prime minister's Covid success story.
This is one reality.
The second reality is that you (Modi) left the state governments on their own and did not provide any assistance to them.
He played politics on who will got more assistance -- states which were BJP governed got more assistance from the Centre vis a vis non-BJP states in terms of vaccination distribution or medicine distribution.
For him to blame somebody else speaks of the hypocrisy of the prime minister, who refuses to be held accountable to the people of this country.
Is it not true that in May 2020, thousands of labourers turned up at the Bandra railway station in Mumbai, waiting for their trains and that created chaos and helped in the spread of COVID-19 in Mumbai? The PM termed it as the 'Congress's sin' since, he said, the party 'instigated migrants to leave Mumbai'.
This is such an unfortunate way to look at that one particular incident.
The truth is that when the Shramik Special trains opened up, some x number of trains were sought by the Maharashtra government and those number of trains were not provided.
You must understand that when this four-hour lockdown notice was given to the country, train services, bus services, everything had come to a halt.
We have a large population of daily wage labourers who come from other states and who do not have their own houses to live in and the means to survive without whatever earnings they make on a daily basis.
They were showing an interest to return to their hometowns before the first COVID-19 wave hit the country.
Maharashtra had only six COIVD cases by the time lockdown was announced. And when the PM announced the lockdown, this led to massive uncertainty.
Despite that, the CM relief fund stepped in and ensured that there were shelter homes set up, food was arranged for them and every possibility like health checkup etc was available for these workers.
I was one of the people who arranged for shelter homes for that particular period.
As soon as the Shramik trains began, they (the central government) started charging money from (these workers) to go to their destinations.
We stepped in by saying that these daily wage labourers do not have money, how will they pay for their rail tickets?
We (the MVA government) bought those tickets for them.
If being humane and understanding the needs of the people is a sin, then perhaps we have sinned.
But he (Modi) has sinned a 100 times by denying these people access to food, to health, to medical facilities. And that is the only truth.
Has he not changed the narrative and made the people believe that the Opposition is to be blamed for the spread of COVID-19?
Nobody in their right mind will believe his narrative. They will not believe things which are not true.
We have seen a massive exodus, people walking on the streets and trains not reaching their destinations.
People dying on board before reaching their destinations as there was no food or water.
A very arrogant railway minister was rubbing it in with his insensitive ways, without realising how badly these migrant labourers were (suffering).
You had a PM who was mocking their situation. You had a finance minister who refused to provide any financial assistance to them.
The country has witnessed all that and I think it will take a long time for people's memory to be misled by a prime minister who is so arrogant and who refuses to acknowledge his own faults.
Congress leader Nana Patole says Modi insulted Maharashtra in his speech by saying 12 crore Maharashtrians spread COVID-19. On the contrary, the PM was attacking the state government and the Congress in particular, over the handling of the COVID-19 situation in Maharashtra.
The prime minister insulted the state of Maharashtra by saying, 'yeh log bojh hai, hamare yahan se bojh le kar nikal jao'.
Is this the way you think the state of Maharashtra behaves (by saying) we do not respect our labour force? It is Maharashtra that respects the labour force and therefore it has become the choicest destination for the labour force to come and work in.
We have given them safety and security, which makes these migrant labourers feel that it is their own state.
Records will show that migrant labourers chose Maharashtra because they have safety and security available here.
For the PM to make a mockery of what Maharashtra is about and for him to mock the inclusivity will come to hit him hard because this is not what the ethos of Maharashtra is.
Maharashtra's ethos is humanity and inclusivity and not what he was trying to sell to the country.
Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik has alleged that COVID-19 spread because of the Namaste Trump event in Ahmedabad.
I will just remind the people of this country of what we saw during the first phase of COVID-19 when the state government did not get any institutional support from the Centre.
How a state government, which was already stretched to the limit with no sources of income -- the states' share of GST was not given to them by the Centre -- managed to (solve) this (crisis).
And the the more important question is, did the Centre learn anything from the first wave of COVID-19?
They did not and they continued to let people die because of lack of oxygen.
They did not buy enough vaccines for us to become a vaccinated country. They did not do that.
They did not provide additional beds in hospitals so that patients could get beds. You did not follow any scientific method to ensure data transparency.
All you did was create more and more noise around your public rallies. You totally disregarded the very basis as a citizen aware (of COVID norms) sitting right at the top.
You also said that the PM's speech in Parliament was like an election speech. Why?
Because the prime minister spoke about Punjab and he said in his speech that how farmers were thrilled to receive money in their bank accounts.
He touched a bit on Uttar Pradesh and by the end of his talk he was talking less of the facts and selling more dreams to people of this country, especially to those in poll-bound states.
I would say that the PM's speech in Parliament was jumlebaazi (empty rhetoric).