Citing concerns raised by three BJP MPs over the spread of coronavirus, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has urged Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to consider suspending the Bharat Jodo Yatra if adherence to Covid protocols cannot be followed.
The move comes amid a high-level meeting held by the Union Ministry as Covid-19 cases show signs of a sudden surge globally.
"I request (Rahul Gandhi) that Covid protocols, including use of masks and sanitisers, be strictly followed during the march and only those who are vaccinated be allowed to participate," the minister has written, in his letter of December 20, when the Yatra was in Rajasthan. It entered Haryana on Wednesday.
"If this Covid protocol cannot be followed, then, in view of the public health emergency, and to save the country from the Covid pandemic, I request you to suspend the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' in the national interest," the minister has further written.
In a letter addressed to Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday, Mandaviya said three MPs from Rajasthan -- P P Chaudhary, Nihal Chand and Devji Patel -- have flagged concerns and requested that Covid protocols, including the use of masks and sanitisers, be strictly followed during the march and only those who are vaccinated be allowed to participate. The yatra entered Haryana on Wednesday from Rajasthan.
The MPs have also requested the Union minister to ensure that participants are isolated before and after taking part in the march. The minister urged Gandhi and Gehlot to take prompt action keeping in view the requests made by the three MPs in Rajasthan. Referring to the letter signed by the three MPs, Mandaviya said they have sought suspension of the yatra in national interest if adherence to Covid protocols cannot be ensured keeping in view concerns around public health.
'Why just Bharat Jodo?': Congress
Noting that the BJP is taking out yatras in Karnataka and Rajasthan, Congress leader Pawan Khera on Wednesday asked if Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had sent letters to them too. The retort came after the minister wrote to Rahul Gandhi to consider suspending the Bharat Jodo Yatra if Covid protocols could not be followed.
"Please announce Covid protocols, we will follow them," Khera told reporters here.
"Why just Rahul Gandhi, why just Congress party, why just Bharat Jodo Yatra?" he asked.
The three MPs, in their letter on December 20, mentioned how the risk of Covid spread has "increased" as people from other states are coming to Rajasthan to take part in the march and claimed that symptoms have shown up in many of them after the participation. The MPs also highlighted how Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu tested positive for coronavirus infection after going back following participation in the event. The Union health minister also attached the letter signed by the MPs to the Congress leaders and asked them to address their concerns.
(with PTI inputs)