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Thursday, June 04, 2020

I’m confident we will win this battle soon, Indore will emerge as a model: Shivraj Singh Chouhan

"We have already asked people to stay away from information which creates sensation and anxiety among people at a broader level. We are trying our best, local administrative bodies have also again and again appealed at their level as well," former Madhya Pradesh chief minister says.

Written by Liz Mathew | Updated: April 21, 2020 7:55:15 am
Shivraj Singh Chauhan attacks rahul gandhi, Shivraj Singh Chauhan attacks sonia gandhi, congress president Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan speaks to The Indian Express on the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Excerpts:

The coronavirus spread in Indore has become a matter of national concern with its high infection and mortality rate. How did it become so? How are you tackling it?

Indore is the prime commercial centre and densely populated city of the state. It is a place from where a large number of people travel abroad for business. Initially, such people hid their travel histories and somehow came into contact with others and this infection spread. Now we are taking special care in this regard. In Indore, the police, administration, public representatives, social workers, media and the public have been fighting wholeheartedly against corona. I am confident that we will win this battle soon and Indore will emerge as a model. I have reviewed the situation in Indore and elsewhere in the state through video conferencing. I have also directed effective implementation of the strategy to Identify, Isolate, Test and Treat in all districts. With this strategy, we will conquer corona soon. The corona testing rate in Indore is much higher than the rest of the state.

I have also given clear instructions for fair price ration to be sent to all districts in sufficient quantity and to ensure that there should be no delay in distribution of ration.

ALSO READ | Coronavirus: Indore testing lower than required, say officials

As per instructions of the Central government, a Containment Plan is ready, under which Plan A and Plan B have been prepared and work is going on for both. In Plan A, the infected and suspects are monitored, in Plan B tests, blood samples, etc. are taken. Under rapid action, we have increased the number of investigation teams in the affected areas, in which three types of teams are working. One team provides public awareness and consultation. One team goes home to take samples and another team provides support to people on a psychological level and tries to remove the fear in their minds. We have arranged to get samples collected from home instead of the hospital so that the infected person can be tested while keeping him isolated. In Indore and Bhopal and surrounding areas, people have been instructed to strictly follow social distancing.

Why do you think there is this large number of cases in some parts of the state?

Along with health officials, paramedical staff, state officials and the police, we all are fighting this crisis together. We are trying our best. Initially, less cases were found in Madhya Pradesh and after that there has been a rapid increase in the number of cases around major cities like Indore and Bhopal… Tablighi Jamaat Members of Madhya Pradesh who joined this event in Delhi and came back are also the reason for this sudden rise as they responded reluctantly and did not come forward willingly…

People returning from foreign visits also hid themselves, first in Indore and Bhopal region due to lack of awareness and other reasons. But now, we are trying our best. We have increased our medical facilities and are consistently trying to strengthen our medical infrastructure. New cases are being found in the state but we have created different zones. All kinds of necessary facilities are being made adequately available in the affected areas. More than 400 containment areas have been created in around 26 districts. 100 per cent survey and contact tracing is being done in all such areas. Screening and quarantining of more than 55,000 people from abroad have been undertaken. Arrangements have also been made to ensure availability of all important things and ration in such areas. In these hotspots, no one can come from outside and no one can go out from here. To prevent the spread of the infection and to control the situation, the Health Department is working with full force.

READ | Govt preparing for a second wave towards May end as lockdown eases

Indore is one of the worst affected in the country (Express photo)

Your senior officers of the health ministry have been accused of being careless and are under quarantine themselves. Why no action against their callous approach, even as the state warns ordinary people of action for carelessness?

It is too early to label them with terms like callous approach. We are fighting a terrible epidemic in which infection spreads very rapidly and comes out unexpectedly. Social distancing is the effective way to avoid it. Since our officers, health workers and administrative personnel were at the forefront of fighting this war and with their full dedication, they were ready like warriors in the service of the public and fulfilling their duty regardless of their lives, they were unfortunately infected. We respect their service spirit, their loyalty and their passion for the nation and society, we salute their selfless service.

Taking cognizance of this subject, I have asked for a detailed report. Without knowing the facts, it would not be right to say what went wrong. They are all government officials and were performing their duties. Now after knowing about this, their contact history is being investigated; We are trying to find out the cause of their infection and the people they met in the meantime. Further, action will be taken by the district authorities on obtaining information based on the protocol.

Your predecessor Kamal Nath has alleged that the state had failed to take required measures in time as the BJP was busy in pulling down his government. Your comment?

I do not agree with him. Medical facilities and important measures regarding the spread of COVID-19 have been taken since I took charge as the Chief Minister. We have been continuously involved in handling this situation. Prior to this, medical facilities were less in number, we have gradually increased them…If Mr Kamal Nath was aware of these facts, why didn’t he take measures to overcome these things when he was Chief Minister, it is a matter of concern, they are hiding their failure by making such statements. I personally feel this is not a right time to put blame, instead of making political comments they should contribute in this fight…

You took oath on March 23, but your cabinet continues to be a one man-army? Why?

It is right that the cabinet plays a crucial role. Council of Ministers works together as a team for the betterment of state and being together helps during the challenging times. The safety of public representatives is also important and apart from it every representative is somehow a part of this fight, but this time the situation is like never before, it is a global pandemic. As soon as I took charge of the state, I put everything into this. Our primary focus was this battle (against COVID-19). I am continuously coordinating with MLAs and MPs of the state and with their consultation and important suggestions, I am taking many decisions for the welfare of the state. Recently, we have formed a committee of ten members to look after the different aspects of this fight against COVID-19 and to support the mechanism built to fight this pandemic. We are also continuously thinking in regard to the cabinet formation, discussions are going on. Whatever decisions will be taken, you will certainly get information about it.

READ | Madhya Pradesh: NSA detainee who tested positive for coronavirus flees hospital

Shivraj Singh Chouhan wins MP floor test; House adjourned till March 27 Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan greets predecessor Kamal Nath at his swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhawan on March 23. (Photo: PTI)

Is the absence of a proper cabinet continuing to be a handicap for the government in its fight against COVID 19? If not, why?

No, it is not, for us, well-being of the state and state mechanism is equally important, we will not let anything affect this joint struggle against this pandemic, it’s just a matter of time and tough conditions, we are working on it and you will soon get the information regarding the formation of the new cabinet.

The state still does not have adequate testing capacity – the state is sending samples to Delhi for testing. How and when will you improve the testing?

No, it is not true for now. Earlier, when I was sworn in as the Chief Minister, these facilities were very less in number…. Today, our medical system is stronger than before against this outbreak. At present, tests are being conducted in nine labs in the state. 5120 samples have been taken in Indore, out of which 1000 samples have been sent to Delhi for testing. There has been an increase in daily checks, now we are doing around 1100 tests daily. Process to start a few other labs is in progress. Testing kits are available and are being supplied continuously. Talking about testing equipment, we have 21,020 RT PCR, 12,700 Manual RNA and 5700 VTM. PPE kits are around 83,000 with 2500 kits being distributed daily. The availability of n95 masks is 1.55 lakhs from which 1 lakh 50,000 n95 masks have been distributed so far. The availability of hydroxychloroquine tablets is more than 33 lakhs. We have 2776 oxygen cylinders available. More than 29,350 isolation beds are available. Around 840 ICU beds are available in the state along with availability of 690 ventilators. We are consistently increasing the number in this regard.

READ | Indore police inspector dies of cardiac arrest two days after testing negative for covid-19

Many, including some in your party admitted that, rapid spread of fake news and misinformation led to hostility towards health workers. Did you find fake news to be a hurdle in the state’s fight against COVID-19? Has the state taken some measures to contain it?

We have already asked people to stay away from information which creates sensation and anxiety among people at a broader level. We are trying our best, local administrative bodies have also again and again appealed at their level as well. We are continuously trying to counsel such persons…,yet such things happen which is very unfortunate. The Central government, the state governments and the whole administrative system state is again and again requesting the public not to panic and cooperate with the relief work…

Those who did this in Indore are behind the bars under the provisions of National Security Act. Recently, such incidents happened in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra too. In my opinion, strict action should be taken against such culprits. I have clearly instructed the authorities that if anyone goes against law or does not cooperate or is found spreading fake news, he should be subjected to strict penal provisions of law. They are social enemies of the state. Playing with the common man’s life would not be tolerated at any cost.

What’s the impact of lockdown on the state’s economy? What’s your assessment of fiscal and revenue shortfall for the state because of the lockdown? Being an experienced Chief Minister, how do you assess the impact of the crisis on the economy?

It is a fact that it is an inevitable danger and it is surely going to disturb the economical wheels of the state but we need to be well-prepared… The state is facing a monthly loss of around 2-3 thousand crores of rupees and we are concerned about it. We have formed a state-level committee to discuss the measures to reboot the economy and to regain the economical and financial momentum once this crisis ends.

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With lockdown hurting the state revenue collection and the fight against COVID-19 spread costing exchequer dearly, many states have asked the central government to take immediate measures to help them to overcome their perilous fiscal positions. What’s the suggestion Madhya Pradesh is giving to the Centre?

We are constantly in touch with the Centre and are getting all kinds of assistance from them. Work is being done for better implementation of the protocol that we have got for prevention of COVID-19 from the central government. The Centre is providing relief and facilities for all the states by preparing a scheme from which Madhya Pradesh is also benefiting. Under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, the Centre has provided relief to labourers, women and self-help groups etc. Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, health workers have also been insured for Rs 50 lakh. Under the Ujjwala scheme, about 72 lakh beneficiaries have received a free cylinder amount in the first month. Under the MGNREGA, the amount of pre-pending payments of Rs 393 crore and Rs 900 crore for future work have been received… Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana for the farmers of the state, for 41.60 lakh farmers of the state, we have received Rs. 832 crore…

It is a matter of praise for our state that the Centre has approved manufacture of PPE kits in the state. I congratulate our state company Pratibha Syntex, which is making the kits. Pratibha Syntex is co-founded by Innovative Clade and Pep Con. I also congratulate and thank them. Govindpura’s company Kill Paste got permission to make testing kits, I also congratulate them. It is a matter of pride for our state.

READ | Madhya Pradesh: In districts not hit by Covid-19, limited economic activity from Monday

What’s the lockdown exit plan for Madhya Pradesh?

We are following the Centre’s plan for lockdown exit from April 20. We have appealed to the people of MP to follow guidelines of the lockdown, cooperate with each other, maitain social distancing. Stay at home, stay safe. No entry, no exit in containment zones. Continuous state-wise surveys are being conducted. It is a question of life and death. Safety and security of the common man is our top priority. As soon as the situation comes under control, lockdown will be lifted, things will go back on the track soon. We are consistently trying to overcome the hazard and trying to stabilise the situation. I request everyone to have patience; we will soon overcome this pandemic.

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You are going to complete a  month as a Chief Minister amidst the Corona Crisis, how do you analyse the situation and how far Madhya Pradesh has come in fighting this pandemic over this one month?

The COVID-19 situation in the state is constantly improving. A large number of infected patients are recovering and leaving for home. Till yesterday, 31 infected patients in Bhopal and 71 infected patients in Indore have recovered and come home. Similarly, there is not a single local patient in Gwalior and Shivpuri. Reports of 193 samples of Bhopal have come negative yesterday. More than 50 per cent of the districts of the state are completely free from Corona. Right from the moment I was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state, I started monitoring and working to prevent the spread of virus along with the state’s Health department and administrative bodies. So far, we have been able to manage sufficient availability of the medical requirements of the state. Along with it, we took a number of steps to fight against the spread and to make people aware about the enormity of this crisis.

We distributed medicines to people for a better immune system, including Ayurvedic, herbal and Yunani medicine. We gave a call for volunteers to join the movement. Today, our medical system is stronger against this infection than before. At present, tests are being conducted in nine laboratories in the state. 5120 samples have been taken in Indore, out of which 1000 samples have been sent to Delhi for testing. Daily testing has been increased, now we are doing about 1,050 daily tests. The process of starting some other laboratories is in progress. Test kits are available and are being supplied continuously.

Talking about testing equipment, we have 22,520 RTPCR, 14,200 manual RNA. PPE kits are around 1 lakh, with 2500 kits distributed daily. The availability of N95 masks is 1.77 lakh out of which 1 lakh 50,000 N95 masks have been distributed so far. The availability of hydroxychloroquine tablets is more than 3.3 million. There are 2776 oxygen cylinders available. More than 29,350 isolation beds are available. There are about 840 ICU beds available in the state and 690 ventilators.

We are continuously increasing the number in this regard. We have also used IT at its optimum level in the state by means of Aarogya Setu, Saarthak App, State Covid Portal and video conferencing measures for monitoring the situation and execution of state machinery following the rule of social distancing.We have trained 450 officials and set up call centres across the state. We have delivered the amount under PMJDY to the beneficiaries and the labourers. We have made adequate arrangements of food for poor and migrant workers,we have also distributed the scholarship money to students of the state and numerous such measures have been taken during this short time. Wheat procurement is going on in the state. From now, we will be following the guidelines for the remaining construction works, food and goods supply, economical activities and other activities in the state. Towns in the green zone will be allowed to open up the small economic activities.

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