Amid a stringent curfew in state to help flatten the COVID-19 curve, several politicians in Punjab have been stepping out for distribution of ration to help the poor and sharing pictures of the same on social media.
While CM Amarinder Singh has given a clear message of social distancing by asking everyone to observe a distance of at least two metres, pictures show several politicians from his party throwing caution to the wind.
Punjab Revenue Minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar was seen posing with people of his constituency whicle handing over a sack to a man in the picture.
With six people in the frame along with the minister, including two police personnel, all are seen standing close to each other.
In another picture, Kangar is escorted by six persons while he hands a ration bag to a woman. None of them is seen wearing mask or gloves.
The WHO has recommended a distance of at least 6 ft between two persons as part of its social distancing strategy to check the containment of virus.
When contacted, Kangar said, “I am going to exercise caution now. I observed that it was becoming difficult for us to control people. But people in my area love me. They want their MLA to be amongst them. They swarm my house at 5:30 in the morning. I heard them telling me that they were also out and they were not scared of coronavirus. Now, I have sensitised many of them. We have to maintain (social) distance.”
In another picture, Ferozepur MLA Parminder Singh Pinki can be seen in a frame in which he is handing over the ration to the needy queued up in front of him. While Pinki is seen trying to maintain distance for himself, those in the queue are not apart by even one foot.
While claiming that he understood his responsibility, Pinki added, “But I was not able to contain myself when I heard the people had not burnt their kitchen fires. I have 28,000 to 30,000 BPL families in my constituency. I have to personally arrange for the ration for some of them. From tomorrow onwards, I have orders for 1,000 breads per day for the families for the entire week. If I will not go to distribute them, they will feel their legislators are not helping. But I will certainly follow the distance rule.
Another picture of Forests Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot distributing ration to slum dwellers in his Nabha constituency has at lease six persons in the frame, not too far from each other. While Dharamsot is seen wearing a black coloured mask along with an official, rest are without any protective gear.
Industries Minister Sunder Sham Arora, who distributed masks and gloves to sanitation workers in Hoshiarpur, is again with a lot of people in close proximity to each other. Most of them, including the minister, are wearing a mask.
But not everyone is ignoring the CM’s advisory, Education and PWD minister Vijay Inder Singla, who has been posting his videos on
Facebook, can be heard telling the people to stand at a distance from each other. He himself is seen maintaining safe distance.
Singla told The Indian Express that he had instructed his team to make sure that not more than one person from every family came out for getting ration. “We ensure that not more than 40 persons come out on any given time. Then, I maintain minimum distance and hand over ration one by one.”
On whether the politicians especially the ministers should go out amid curfew, he said, “It is like a confidence building measure. You have to be amid them when they are facing a crisis. There is a scare of COVID-19. Then they do not have food. It is a difficult time for them. Hence, I have to be among them,” he said.
A Cabinet minister, who did not wish to be named, however said that he did not want pictures to show-off work being done in his area.
“I am getting my Sarpanches to give away bags in my constituency. I do not want any pictures. If a minister goes into the field, people gather around him. So it is better to let the Sarpanches handle it at grassroots level,” said the minister.
Rein in ministers breaking law: Mann
Claiming that Punjab ministers and ruling party MLAs were allowed to move freely along with their cavalcades and heavy entourage despite curfew restrictions and national lockdown, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has demanded that Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh rein in such leaders.
In a joint statement issued Sunday, AAP state president Bhagwant Mann and Leader of Opposition (LoP) Harpal Singh Cheema questioned as to under which provisions of the law, the lawmakers were allowed to roam free.
“The lawmakers of ruling Congress and those of the Shiromani Akali Dal are out on the streets in gross violation of the law. The are playing cheap politics in the name of extending a helping hand to the poor and needy. This must stop,” Mann said.
The AAP leaders said that instead of going to every household with the ration bags to be delivered to the poor and needy and uploading the picture on social media for public consumption, the ruling party could do it in a better way sitting at their respective residences.
Cheema said said those violating curfew restrictions included ministers Sadhu Singh Dharmasot, Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu and SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia.
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