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LIVE: Shouldn't politicise COVID crisis, says Health Minister amid Oppn attack; Pegasus row rocks Lok Sabha

·3-min read
Union Health Minister addresses Rajya Sabha
Union Health Minister addresses Rajya Sabha

"They say why did we do 'thaali-taali'? We did it to encourage Corona warriors. We did it for the policemen standing on the roads for our protection, we did it in honour of the healthcare staff - from the lowest to the highest level - who worked during pandemic," said Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday as opposition leaders turned up the heat on Modi government's COVID handling.

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After being adjourned due to protests by the Opposition, the Rajya Sabha resumed it's Monsoon Session on Tuesday, 20 July, with Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge severely criticising the Narendra Modi government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also stressed that instead of taking the blame, Prime Minister Modi made Health Minster Harsh Vardhan, who resigned ahead of the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, a scapegoat.

"Lockdown was announced overnight, just like demonetisation. Govt didn't prepare for it. There were no trains for people to go back home. Livelihood of people was impacted. Government should be held accountable."

Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha has been adjourned till July 22 as opposition started raising slogans on the Pegasus snooping issue soon after the Lower House assembled at 3 pm.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday hit out at the Opposition for playing politics on Covid-19, saying sufficient vaccines were available in the country and it was “most unfortunate” that the parties were “milking” such an issue.

Taking potshots at the Congress party, the prime minister said a party which has been reduced to just two or three states in the country is unable to digest that the BJP has been chosen by the people of the country with a record margin in the second term.

Speaking at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, the prime minister said there was no need for anybody to fear scarcity of vaccines as every effort was being made to ensure availability. He also said there should be concerted efforts to ensure vaccine wastage is minimised and asked his party colleagues to reach out to people and bring facts to the fore so that vaccine hesitancy can be tackled effectively.

Hitting out at the Delhi government, PM Modi said it is “most unfortunate” and an “area of concern” that about 20% of the frontline workers have not been vaccinated in the national capital.

IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw is expected to make a suo motu statement on the Pegasus row in Rajya Sabha today, a day after proceedings in both Houses of Parliament were washed out due to uproar by the Opposition over farm laws as well as the snooping row.

Vaishnaw on Monday dismissed media reports on the use of Pegasus software to snoop on Indians, saying the allegations levelled just ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament are aimed at maligning Indian democracy. In a suo motu statement in Lok Sabha, Vaishnaw said that with several checks and balances being in place, “any sort of illegal surveillance” by unauthorised persons is not possible in India.

The minister made this statement in response to media reports that spyware Pegasus was being used to conduct surveillance on several Indians, including political leaders, government officials and journalists. Interestingly, Vaishnaw’s name too figures among the potential targets of surveillance through Pegasus, an Israeli spyware, according to news website The Wire.

“A highly sensational story was published by a web portal yesterday night…. The press report appeared a day before the Monsoon session of the Parliament. This cannot be a coincidence. In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports have no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties…. The press report of July 18, 2021 also appeared to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and a well-established institution,” the minister said.

(With inputs from News18 and other agencies)

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