New Delhi : Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma on Wednesday questioned the Union government's claim that the nationwide lockdown prevented up to 29 lakh coronavirus cases and lack of data on assistance to and deaths of migrant labourers.
"The Health Minister said that this decision (lockdown) prevented 14-29 lakh COVID-19 cases and 37,000-78,000 deaths. This House must be told what is the scientific basis on which we have reached this conclusion," the Rajya Sabha member said. He called it a "very wide gap".
On Monday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had told the Lok Sabha: "The nationwide lockdown, a bold decision by the government, is testimony to the fact that India collectively stood up to manage Covid-19. It has been estimated that this decision prevented 14-29 lakh cases and 37,000 to 78,000 deaths."
Sharma, a former Union Minister, also questioned why the government had no data on assistance provided to migrant workers and the number of deaths while they were returning to their native place after the imposition of the lockdown.
He also highlighted that had facilities like quarantine centres been in place in cities for migrant workers, their reverse migration could have been restricted and the pandemic prevented from spreading in rural areas.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar had told the Lok Sabha that statewise data was "not available on the assistance provided to migrant workers."
Asked by several MPs if "thousands of migrant labourers have died during the lockdown", Gangwar replied that "no such data is available".
Sharma also urged the Centre to speak to the states on ways to improve the public health system, dubbing it a "wake-up call".