Interview | Other States

Battle against COVID-19 should be at a human level, says Sachin Pilot

Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot. File

Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot. File   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

The Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister says State governments should follow a staggered approach to lifting the lockdown

Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister and State Congress president Sachin Pilot has said State governments should follow a staggered approach in lifting the lockdown, as the Indian healthcare system may not be able to handle the kind of pressure one has seen in Western countries if more positive coronavirus cases come in. Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview with The Hindu.

Two weeks of lockdown are over and another week to go. There are reports that it may be extended, as some States like Telangana have asked for an extension. What’s your view?

There is still a week to take a final call, but my personal view is that it is too early to think of a complete lifting of the lockdown. We have to follow a staggered approach and must not overzealously go back to earlier ways. Yes, I know there is a massive economic cost but we can’t risk the health of our citizens. Frankly, if the rate of infections in India reach anywhere near what Western Europe or the U.S. has seen, our health infrastructure and hospitals will not be able to handle and collapse under its weight.

草草影院最新地址入口This disease doesn’t differentiate between any region, religion, race or ideology. Therefore, the battle against Corona [COVID-19] has to be at a human level with all hands on the deck.

Okay, but former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has talked of factoring in India’s complexities. What are your thoughts on that?

Look, no two countries have acted exactly the same way. It’s not just a question of adopting an either/or model but work out something that takes into local factors. Let me give you an example. In Rajasthan, we have already got the spraying of sodium hypochlorite done in 38,000 of the total of 46,000 villages. We have sanctioned ₹50,000 for masks and sanitizers in each of the 11,000 panchayats, changed the system of marking attendance for workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and so on.

Also read: ‘Ruthless containment’ is key to controlling virus spread, says Rajasthan Health Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh

Now, these MGNREGA workers would be marking their attendance in isolated spots, following protocols issued by World Health Organization (WHO), [and we have] cleared their wage backlog. We have also started giving soap bars with the MGNREGA kits and asked the workers to wash their hands four times a day.

We have activated the village sanitization committee, which is headed by the Sarpanch, and have asked them to go door to door to create awareness. It takes a lot of convincing to get behavioural change to come about, especially in rural areas.

One is also hearing of a Bhilwara model, one of the earliest hotspots, in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Can you tell us what is the situation now and what did you do?

草草影院最新地址入口The situation is now well under control and just yesterday [April 7] we released a few patients. Once patient zero — who was a medical doctor — was identified, contract tracing, screening and aggressive testing was done.

We had imposed a “super curfew,” 草草影院最新地址入口where even media, NGOs and other voluntary organisations were not given curfew passes and the administration took upon itself to deliver essential commodities at doorstep. People with influenza-like illness were aggressively tested and borders were sealed. We ensured zero movement of people and vehicles in the city. Every household was screened multiple times and those showing symptoms were quarantined and isolated. Doctors and paramedical staff were rotated, but most importantly, the people of Bhilawara whole-heartedly co-operated. That’s how we were able to contain the spread. But it’s important that we don’t take our eyes off the ball.

Now, such protocols are being followed across the State. For example, in neighbouring Tonk, from where I am an MLA, when 18 cases were reported, we imposed a curfew. We know that a curfew or lockdown cannot be successful if people don’t participate. So, we need to explain to the people the logic but it shouldn’t be the case where people use their connections/influence and are allowed to move about. The sanctity of the curfew needs to be maintained.

What about funding from the Centre? We saw the Rajasthan government suggesting that the Centre should prepare a ₹1 lakh crore package.

You see the package — the ₹1.73 lakh crore economic package that the Union government announced — is a very generic package. I think the Centre should work on a State-specific package, where a State gets funding proportionate to the challenge they face in dealing with COVID-19 patients. I think the package should be made by identifying the hotspots in a particular State and the needs of the State government.

So far, what are the biggest challenges that you have faced as a government and, going forward, what other challenges do you foresee?

草草影院最新地址入口We have earmarked 1 lakh beds in Rajasthan to take on the COVID-19 pandemic. There are around 40 places in the State that are under curfew right now. The doctors and paramedics are working round the clock. We will, however, need ventilators, additional PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] kits, etc., as we move ahead.

草草影院最新地址入口The challenge is to make sure the poorest amongst us are able to get food and essential commodities. So far, we have managed with our resources and with a lot of people, NGOs and business houses coming forward. But I fear fatigue might set in and then we will need additional resources to manage these requirements. We also have the harvest season upon us and the farmers will need support and concessions to make their ends meet. The Government of India makes State-specific arrangements for deploying adequate financial help.

There have been some suggestions that this is a truly unprecedented crisis and the Central government should formally involve experience and expertise available with the Opposition. What’s your take?

Yes, this is one of biggest challenges of our times and [one that is] beyond any party or ideology. We are one as a nation and should fight as one people. It does not matter in what capacity, but everyone who can contribute should just contribute. Of course, it should be a two-way street.

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