Rajasthan’s count of more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases is not a cause of worry because the state government’s objective is to ensure not a single case goes undetected, says Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Rajasthan’s virus tally on Wednesday was 2,364 with 51 fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry. “There is no need to worry if the total number of cases go up. The state wants that nobody with the disease should go unnoticed,” Gehlot told PTI in an interview.
The chief minister talked extensively about the various steps taken by the state government to control the spread of the disease, mitigate the problems of those severely affected by the lockdown and the impact of the pandemic outbreak on Rajasthan’s economy.
He said the state’s revenue was dwindling in the wake of the nationwide lockdown, adding that the Centre is yet to act constructively on Rajasthan’s demand to release outstanding GST arrears. The senior Congress leader also called for special trains to take migrant workers stranded at different places in the country to their homes.
Gehlot said he has discussed the issue with the Central government. “I urged the Centre to put in place necessary mechanisms to take the migrant workers home. The Centre should run special trains to transport them to their native places.”
On earning praise for effectively controlling the disease in Bhilwara, Gehlot said the containment model was successful in the textile town as it is not densely populated and the administration acted swiftly. He said the containment strategy in other regions of the state, where a large number of COVID-19 cases have been reported, is taking time due to the dense population.
Bhilwara became a hotspot after three doctors and nine nursing staffers of a private hospital tested positive. “We introduced strict containment strategies in hotspot areas. The “Bhilwara model’ was adopted in Jaipur, Kota and other hotspot areas of the state. It becomes more difficult to control the spread of a disease in densely populated areas,” he said.
The chief minister cited the example of the Jaipur’s Parkota area (Ramganj locality) where the population is higher than Bhilwara. “In this region, many families reside in one house. So we divided the region into 30 clusters and conducted testing a reason why there are more number of cases there,” Gehlot explained.
The chief minister also dismissed the opposition’s allegations that the government relaxed restrictions in areas populated by the Muslim community. “These are baseless allegations. When some (COVID-19) cases were reported in Jaipur Parkota, action was taken immediately,” he said.
Gehlot did not name any opposition leader but said disease does not differentiate between religion, caste or nationality. He agreed with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s view that a lockdown is not a permanent solution to the pandemic, and added that more factors should be looked into to find a way out of the crisis.
The three-time chief minister and long-time Congress leader also urged the Centre to provide quality rapid testing kits and and other essential equipment. Many states, he said, are battling the problem of not having enough safety paraphernalia.
“We had got rapid testing kits from the ICMR, but stopped using them after they turned out to be faulty. The state has increased the number of PCR tests,” he said.
On the revenue loss to the state due to the COVID-19 situation, Gehlot said Rajasthan registered Rs 18,000 crore loss in 2019-20. “The state lost Rs 3,500 crore in March end when the lockdown was imposed for the first time. There will be more losses in coming months,” he said.
“The states have demanded Rs 1 lakh crore from the Centre to tide over the COVID-19 crisis. They have also called for relaxation in interest payments of loans for at least six months,” he said.
The chief minister also said the state received praise for its containment strategy in the recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers via video conferencing.
He, however, refused to comment on the recent visit of Central teams to certain states to check their COVID-19 preparedness. Gehlot said he has discussed the issue of stranded migrant workers in various parts of the country with the Central government.
“I urged the Centre to put in place necessary mechanisms to take the migrant workers home. The Centre should run special trains to transport them to their native places,” he commented.
The chief minister added that Rajasthan was one of the first states to announce a relief package for the poor hit by the lockdown. He said the state announced a package of around Rs 3,000 crore for poor, migrants and other disadvantaged sections of the society amid the lockdown.
“Apart from it, 78 lakh social security pensioners were given two months of pension in advance. The state also released aid of Rs 2,500 each to 33 lakh people. These include daily wage earners, construction labourers, street vendors, waste pickers, rickshaw drivers among others,” the chief minister said.
He added that the state government had recently decided to give 10 kg of wheat for free to 60 lakh people.