Voicing strong objection to BJP leaders in Bengaluru trying to “communalise” anomalies found in the city’s municipal body bed allotment system, prominent citizens of the Karnataka capital Thursday demanded Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s intervention to ensure “petty politicking and communalising does not worsen the situation.”
The action came after a video showing BJP leaders, including Bangalore South Lok Sabha MP Tejasvi Surya, Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya, Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy, and Chickpet MLA Uday Garudachar, reading out names and questioning the presence of 17 Muslim workers among 205 at a Covid-19 war room of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) went viral on Wednesday.
Among the noteworthy voices who raised alarm on the issue was author and historian Ramachandra Guha. “Are these four gentlemen freelancers or are they acting at the higher orders of their party,” he wondered.
Further, Guha added that communal polarisation would have “grave consequences”. He then suggested that CM Yediyurappa and senior leaders like former Prime Minister H D Devegowda and former CM Siddaramaiah should look into the matter seriously. “It is up to the CM, and senior Opposition leaders to stand up and stop this poison and venom immediately,” he said.
Guha continued that the state could not afford violence and division in such a juncture amid the ongoing second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. “..All our attention should be in containing the (pandemic-related) crisis, alleviating the suffering, making hospital beds available, ensuring adequate supply of oxygen and other resources, and showing proper concern and compassion for all staff including doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, supervisory staff and others involved,” he noted.
Meanwhile, a group of civil society organisations in the city wrote an open letter to the CM, also urging him to take effective and systematic steps to address the pandemic and the number of deaths across districts.
While the group welcomed the efforts taken by the elected representatives to expose the alleged scam, it noted in the letter to Yediyurappa, “In the natural course, these elected representatives, all from your party, should have filed a police complaint and ensured that the matter is quickly investigated and the guilty brought to book.”
An investigation by the Chief Secretary into the entire incident has also been demanded, urging the government to make the findings public. “We understand under their pressure 17 Muslim employees of the company have been removed from their posts, without any reason, thus losing their livelihoods in these dire times,” the letter added.
‘Decentralise Covid response, ensure free vaccination’
Leo F Saldanha, Co-ordinator of the Environment Support Group, stressed that the state’s COVID response strategy must be decentralised. “This will enable people’s access to oxygen, physicians, medical care, and vaccination within the ward or panchayat. The entire mechanism should be governed transparently and with accountability,” he noted.
“Karnataka must take a decision, regardless of any financial considerations, to demand Central support to ensure everyone is vaccinated against COVID for free,” the letter stated.
Among the 23 points mentioned were the need for government officials to inspect hospitals to take stock of the ICU, fire, and safety and emergency facilities frequently, to appoint mental health counsellors for all frontline workers in every ward, and to ensure availability of fresh masks and hand sanitisers at all public health facilities for the staff and visitors coming in for testing, vaccination and general health care.
Meanwhile, Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor and researcher said, “When we (doctors treating Covid patients) are in distress, we approach volunteers over the government as they have been responsive day and night since the pandemic began. Be it for oxygen, medicines, food, or any other essential, they have been there, including many from the Muslim community. It is very shameful that Surya and his friends are using opportunities to communalise the issue.”
She added that the extent of the ongoing crisis could have been minimised if healthcare facilities at the primary or secondary level were readied by the government.
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