Updated: May 17, 2020 1:04:07 am
In an apparent bid to reduce its caseload statistically, Punjab has refused to include 34 positive cases of Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel in the state’s tally after categorizing them under a new head called ‘central pool’. While RFP comes under the central government, but its 34 men had tested positive in Ludhiana while on special duty here to manage Shramik trains.
Further, there is no category called the ‘central pool’ in the Union Ministry of Health’s Covid state-wise bulletin on its website. But by using this head in the state Covid bulletin on Friday, Punjab clearly refused to count the 34 RPF personnel in the state’s tally.
On Saturday too, the figure was not included in Punjab’s overall tally, despite Centre saying that the state has to count it. But Punjab only added 3 new cases to Ludhiana’s tally, which is now 139, still leaving 34 RPF men out.
The state’s daily Covid bulletin had on Friday said: “18 new cases (RPF) reported today in Ludhiana belong to Delhi and added in central pool. 16 cases from (RPF) reported earlier in Ludhiana removed from total count and added in central pool.” No RPF men tested positive on Saturday in Ludhiana.
Responding to the query on where such cases have to be counted, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told The Indian Express, “Such cases will be shown in states where they happen. We have requested states also to follow the same. There is no India Pool and cases are allocated to states only.”
However, Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, Punjab’s programme officer-cum-spokesperson for Covid-19, said: “We wrote a letter to them (Union Health Ministry) to count RPF cases in Delhi or central pool. However, they told us that there is nothing called ‘central pool’. It does not exist as of now. Now, we have told them to count these cases in Delhi. There is no way they will be counted in Punjab tally because these personnel were living in Delhi since at least a year and came to Ludhiana on May 7. We are not counting them in Punjab.”
Asked why ‘central pool’ was mentioned in Punjab’s media bulletin when it did not exist, Dr Bhaskar said, “Initially, they (MoH) they told us that it was under consideration. Now, decision on these cases remains pending.”
A senior state Health Department official said, “Punjab cannot disown cases like this. RPF personnel came on duty here and tested positive here. They are admitted at hospitals in Ludhiana. Till the ministry does not assign them to other states or create any separate pool for such employees, they have to be counted where they came on duty and tested positive.”
Meanwhile, speaking to The Indian Express, Inspector Jasbir Singh, who led 79-member unit that came to Ludhiana for duty, said: “All of us belong to different states and we were living in Delhi because our Battalion is headquartered there. We came for special duty in Ludhiana. It is disappointing if we are being disowned like this now.” He added: “But more importantly, 30 of our men admitted at Mother Child Hospital (MCH) are not getting food in time. At least this issue should be solved even if they don’t count us in Punjab statistically.” All 34 men who have tested positive belong to the 6th battalion of the RPF.
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