Shri Rahul Gandhi addressed the media via video conferencing on May 28, 2021
Shri Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “Hello friends, you are all very welcome on behalf of All India Congress Committee in this special press conference being addressed by Shri Rahul Gandhi Ji. Without any delay, before Rahul ji addresses you, there is a 2-minute video which we will play and then Rahul ji will address you after which we will take questions from you.” Shri Surjewala said that the former Congress President and our leader Shri Rahul Gandhi Ji is amidst us today to address all the issues related to the Corona crisis in the whole country, the situation of vaccination in the country, the way there is a constant threat to the lives of the countrymen and there is no such thing as government. He has been warning the government continuously for the last one and a half years, while the government is silent on this whole matter and has adopted an irresponsible attitude. I will now request Shri Rahul Gandhi ji to put his point before you.
Shri Rahul Gandhi said that I welcome all of you journalists here. Like Randeep Ji said that I and many other people had warned the government about Corona; not once but over and over again. We repeated our point time-and-again and the government made fun of us and as you see in the video, the Prime Minister declared victory saying, ‘Corona is defeated’. The problem is that the government and the Prime Minister have not understood Corona and have not understood it till date. It is important to understand, we are fighting a war with Corona, so, if you are fighting a war with something, you have to understand, what it is. It is important to understand that Corona is not a single disease, it is an evolving disease. It changes, it transforms. The only way to stop Corona is to remove the space within which it moves. Do not give it time to move. The more time you give it, the more space you give it, the more dangerous it will become. I had requested in February last year to close the space and not give time to Corona to flourish. What is the way in which this virus works, how does corona attack - First of all, it attacks the people who do not have food, those who are weak, those who are the poor people of India; On the other hand, those who have comorbidities, those who have diabetes, those who have heart diseases, those who are obese, it attacks them first and then it gradually goes on changing. The more space you give it, it will change, mutate and become more efficient.
There are 3-4 ways to stop corona. One of those ways is the permanent solution - that is the vaccine. Lockdown is a weapon, but it hurts the people and leads to their suffering. So,it is not a permanent solution. It’s just a temporary solution. Social distancing is a temporary solution. Mask is a temporary solution. These are temporary measures and they do not stop the virus. They postpone the virus, they slow the virus down, so for example, when we get rid of the lockdown, the virus will start to work again, it will start to evolve itself, and it will start to redesign itself. Vaccine is the permanent solution. But if you don’t get the vaccine soon, the virus will get out of proportions and will even defeat the vaccine. Because if you allow the virus to thrive in India, it will mutate, it will change, it will become more efficient. The tragedy is, that the Government is not understanding the nature of what they are fighting. The Government is under the impression that they are fighting the opposition. When it comes to Corona, we are on the Government’s side. I have been saying since (February, 2020) - please, understand what you are facing, understand, what should be done for the people who do not have enough calories- give them food. Understand what happens to people with comorbidities; understand the dangers of the mutation of this virus, not only to India, but to the rest of the world as well.
Regarding the vaccine strategy, I directly told the Prime Minister that if India does not make the vaccine strategy right, people will die many times, not once. Not only one or two waves of the virus would emerge, but multiple waves would surface to wreak havoc. It is because the virus will keep adapting.
What is the situation now –Recently, I saw the Foreign Minister giving a speech that India has made a name for itself. We gave vaccines to different countries. It is Vaccine diplomacy that we have been practising. You are creating a liability for the whole planet, why? You are allowing 97% of the population to be attacked by Corona. America has vaccinated half its population. Countries like Brazil vaccinated 8 percent, 9 percent. They are not vaccine capitals, we are. We make vaccines. Multiple different prices for the vaccination have been allowed, different people are paying different things, speculations are going on vaccines, business is being run shamelessly. At what cost? What is the government doing? You are helping the virus, you are telling the virus, we are not going to vaccinate our population, do your work, evolve, mutate, so you can kill more people.
I am 100% certain that every single journalist who is watching this press conference has lost somebody or the other. The Government is responsible for all this. The Prime Minister is responsible. Clap your hands, shine your mobile phones, we have defeated Corona. It is a fundamental misunderstanding. What is going on? It is ignorance. I am again requesting the Government- get your vaccination strategy in order. Do not give the virus space to mutate. It is going to kill again. Lockdown is a temporary solution. The moment you open the lockdown, the virus will prepare itself and I guarantee you at 3% vaccination we are going to get a third wave and it is going to be more brutal than the second wave. If we continue to leave the space open, if we do not shut the door for the virus, if we do not shut the space for it to mutate, there will be a fourth wave and fifth wave and then there is a chance the vaccine would not work.
When I speak, everybody says- No, Rahul Gandhi is frightening people. No, I am not frightening people, I am trying to save people. When I spoke in February, I was trying to save my country’s people. I was scared for them. I was worried for them. I didn’t want to see what I had to see over the last 2-3 months. It is not a political matter. It is a matter of the future of India. It is a matter of saving the lives of our people and the government should understand that we are not their enemy. The opposition is not their enemy. The opposition is giving them indications. The opposition is showing them the way. If we had listened in February, millions of people would not have died.
So, as journalists, it is your duty to put pressure on the Government. And the lie that is being told about the number of people who have died is also to be condemned. This is not the time to spread lies. If we have to fight Corona, then we have to understand the truth. When you lie, you give this virus space. When you don’t tell the truth, you give the virus space. Stop giving the virus space.
On a question about vaccination policy and the launch of vaccination without proper planning in India? Shri Rahul Gandhi said- Look! I have spoken, since February; I have been speaking to expert, after expert, after expert on Corona. I have been trying to understand what it is and how is it going to behave in future.
Please understand that if you allow 97% of people to be potential victims of Corona, your vaccine will not work, because by the time, you have come to 10-15-20 percent vaccination, the virus will have mutated, it will have gone somewhere else. The disease that has attacked in the second wave, is a different disease than the disease that attacked in the first wave. We are lucky right now, that the second disease is still under the umbrella of the virus. The third disease or the fourth disease that comes might not be. It might be much more dangerous disease as compared to the second (wave) disease that was much more dangerous disease than the first one. So, what Corona is doing, it is testing.It is dynamic and it is moving, it is learning and what we have to do is to stop giving any space to it to learn and mutate. You have to make sure that your vaccination numbers should be up. If you do not vaccinate at a much more dramatic rate, your vaccination potentially will not work. My understanding and the understanding of experts who I have spoken to, the current rate of vaccination i.e. 3%, almost guarantees the third wave when the lockdown is lifted. So, if your vaccination is 20-30-40-50-60 percent, you would not have that third wave, certainly would not have a fourth wave and a fifth wave.
Now, the problem is, there is no strategy. The Prime Minister doesn’t think strategically. He is an event manager. He thinks one event at a time. So, for many people say, we want these people to be vaccinated, suddenly makes an event for self. Yes, let’s get these people to be vaccinated. If we want this to happen, suddenly make an event himself - let’s make it. You don’t need events now. Events are going to kill people. You need the strategy; and what is the aim of the strategy- shut the space for Corona, don’t give it space. Wherever you find Corona can go, shut it down. Use a vaccine, use social distancing, use masks, use whatever you can, but, shut the space now. The more time you leave, the more space you leave for the virus, the more dangerous it is going to become. It is going to keep improving.
On another question that the death rate figures are wrong, so are there any Congress ruled states in it, Shri Rahul Gandhi said that I have personally spoken to my Chief Ministers, and I have warned them that lying will harm each one of us. If the actual death rate is shown to people, then people will definitely be disturbed, but the reality will have to be accepted! Because if we do not accept the reality, we will not be able to stop the virus. So, I have talked to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, and to the rest of the Chief Ministers that they need to tell the truth, because truth never fails us. We are getting appropriate feedback. Truth will help us. If we have to fight Corona, then truth is to be accepted. It is okay in the short term, people will feel that the death rate is very high, but it will have to be accepted, because if we hide it then it will be difficult to fight against corona. I say with conviction that the central government’s death rate is a lie, a cent-percent lie which means it is exponentially false, exponentially. Not by 5 percent or10 percent.
On another question related to a comment made by the Government’s top Covid adviser Dr. VK Paul blaming the states for the current vaccination issues, Shri Rahul Gandhi said- I mean, this is what the Prime Minister does all the time. You are the Prime Minister. The buck stops with you. The bottom line is- you are responsible! Why is only 3% of India vaccinated? Did the Chhattisgarh export vaccines? No, the Prime Minister of India exported vaccines. Because he fundamentally misunderstood what was going on. He was living in some other world in his little bubble! Vaccine diplomacy! It is insanity! See, the problem is, he gets no feedback; nobody talks to him. So, the ship is moving without any idea of what is going on and then blame game- that you know, it is the states.
Did Chhattisgarh export vaccines? I don’t remember the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh is saying, you know, we are doing vaccine diplomacy and we are sending the vaccine abroad now and gave a list of countries, where we have sent vaccines? Did the Chhattisgarh government order vaccines in beginning of this year? Indian Government ordered vaccines! Why didn’t they order vaccine when we were saying? America ordered them in June. We don’t have enough vaccines! Look, I don’t want to get into a blame situation. All I want to say is that I fear what is coming. As the Prime Minister of India, he should say, okay, we need to make sure, there is no third wave. What do we need to do? We need to close the space for the virus. How do we do it? He is not doing that. He is terrified, he is in shock. He is trying to figure out how he repairs his image. His image is gone, is dead. So, I would request him to stop worrying about his image and start worrying about the problem in front of him, which is now, (Corona is) killing people, probably will end up killing millions of people.
On another question that you emphasized a lot about the government being late in adopting its vaccine policy. So how to fill this gap, what would you suggest to the government? Shri Rahul Gandhi said that we are the Vaccine Capital of the world. We are giving space to the virus. Like I said earlier, the lockdown is a pause button. Temporary solution will be given from the pause button. Temporary solution will be available from mask, permanent solution will be available from vaccine. So, there is no choice. Take vaccine from wherever you can get itand vaccinate as many people as you can. Stop making silly excuses blaming the states and fulfill the responsibility that the people of India have given you. Fear not, this is what leadership means. Leadership does not mean that if I could not work, then I start the blame-game. Buck stops with the Prime Minister. Now is the time for you to be a leader, so be one. Say, yes, I will get the vaccine, no matter whatI do, I will get it. Show your courage, throw away your fears.
And most importantly, those who are trying to help you, who are telling you the truth, whether it is the people of the opposition, whether they are the Chief Ministers of different states, whether they are your bureaucrats, whether they are your DMs, listen to them. Get their point. You don’t have the information, find the information and don’t waste your time. Don’t think like previously that we have beaten the virus, because it will come again. When you will say that we have defeated the virus after the second wave, the third wave will come.
On another question that there is such a section in the country which is financially weak, do you not think that the lockdown should be removed or should be imposed partially? Shri Rahul Gandhi said that you have given this simplistic framework whether lockdown should be imposed or not. Strategy is needed in battle. There are also different weapons in battle. Different weapons have different capabilities, and all weapons should be used effectively. To say remove the lockdown, don’t remove the lockdown, is confusing. What is the strategy, what is the overall strategy? If you don’t have an overall strategy to fight the battle, then it doesn’t matter if you impose the lockdown or not. There is no point in that. You should create your overall strategy. You have the tools to do so. But you’re not doing it. You should have started the preparation for vaccination last year itself. I had said, I tweeted you, the Prime Minister, that Please, vaccination strategy is key, because that is the only way. This virus can be stopped only through vaccination. Your people made fun of me. So, the mind set should be that now we are fighting this virus and we have to use all our weapons effectively. Lockdown is a terrible weapon, a blunt weapon, it does as much harm as it benefits. How are you thinking about the lockdown? National lockdown, state lockdown, localized lockdown, district lockdown? So, thePrime Minister should form a group. Call it War Group, Call it Corona Fight Group. There should be a meeting with it everyday. It should have state input, expert input and daily strategy should be implemented. Nothing is happening here. I mean, elections are going on in Bengal. Mass events are being organized. You allowed turning up of crores of people into the Kumbh Mela, you did not even think of its consequences? So, strategy is needed.
On another question that you had said in your last press conference that to defeat Corona, you have to run ahead of Corona. Do you think that even after saying by the government, even after taking steps, we are running after Corona? Shri Rahul Gandhi said that the government has not understood the nature of Corona. Till date the Prime Minister has not understood the nature of Corona. Because if the government, the Prime Minister had understood the nature of Corona, then their approach would have been to stop the virus instead. Wherever it runs, it would have been stopped. There are different tools, they would have been used. They are not even giving it a thought. Instead, you are giving a speech in Bengal, lakhs of people are standing in front of you. You are standing there without a mask, what message is being sent to the people? You don’t even understand the virus. So, understand the virus and shut the space for it. It cannot be said that they cannot do vaccination - it is suicidal. They will have to vaccinate, have to find the vaccine, make it, do whatever you want to do, and systematically stop making space for the virus. When the Prime Minister says that the fault of vaccination is not ours, it is the fault of the states, corona will make room for itself. They are making room for the virus, breaking the coordination between the states and the Prime Minister. The better the coordination, the more space will be closed. If Baghel ji, Narendra Modi ji will appear on one page, Mamta ji, Narendra Modi ji will appear on one page, the place for virus will be closed. If Narendra Modi will say that Mamta ji made a mistake, then the place for the virus will be created. So, you will have to assume a Warmindset. You took the casualty but you are not in the Warmindset.
On another question about Government avoiding Parliamentary Committee meetings citing COVID-19 and Parliamentary reports recommending the Government to ramp up oxygen supplies and to increase the vaccines much ahead of the second wave of pandemic? Shri Gandhi said- The Government’s idea, and this is an idea that is central to the philosophy of the RSS, is to suppress information. The idea is to suppress information. Don’t give the correct death rate. Lie about the testing rate. Don’t let journalists say the truth, pressure Twitter, pressure Facebook, pressure the Newspapers. What they are not realizing, this is the information system. You might not like what you are hearing, but that is the truth, and you have to act on that. So, what the BJP-RSS has done is thatthey shut down the information system. So, there is no feedback to the Prime Minister. He does not even understand today where the problem is, because he has made everybody lie and so, that is the context in which you should look at the Parliamentary Committees.
It is suppression of information which is helping Corona. Lying about deaths is helping Corona. It is creating the space for Corona. Arguing with the Chief Minister is helping Corona. Bring the country together, make the country work together. How many opposition leaders have you spoken to? Not a single one! We are helping, because it has gonepast politics now. It is now about the lives of our people.
On another question about the de-licensing of the Corona vaccine and Government says- it is not an attractive idea to do so, Shri Gandhi said- My view is that what is critical is that we vaccinate as many people, as fast as possible, and however we can get them, we should get them (vaccines). That is my view.
On another question about a comment of External Affairs Minister Shri Jaishankar that whenever opposition parties start questioning the Govt. that is actually a conspiracy and ‘it is a conspiracy to derail and dent the image of India’? Shri Gandhi said- I understand that the Foreign Minister has to say this, and he is forced to say this by the Prime Minister. I understand that, but this is precisely the type of thing that reflects his ignorance.
The opposition is the warning system. In any democracy, we are the ones who bring the information that the Government does not have access to, that is what our job is. In February, last year, I said- listen, we got a problem and instead of saying wait a minute, there might be some truth to this, they say- there is a conspiracy against people of India! The conspiracy against India is conspiracy of ignorance; that is, they are deeply embedded in the Government of India and in the Prime Minister. They have to understand that everybody in this country is trying to help him. Every single person right now because we have gone beyond politics now. Millions of people are going to die. So, this attitude is wrong. The mindset has to be okay! We all are fighting with this together now and somebody in the opposition just said that, let me think about it. Just a few months ago, I saw a talk of the Foreign Minister. I think, it was at the India Today conclave. Saying what a great job they have done in giving vaccines to the rest of the world... that India’s soft power. Fundamental misunderstanding! What’s going on? Fundamental misunderstanding of power, fundamental misunderstanding of India’s place in the world, that is the problem, and the other problem is that you think everything is a conspiracy.