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Modi tells MPs lockdown only way to curb Covid-19 spread, hints at extension beyond 14 April




Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a meeting via video conference amid the lockdown to prevent spread of Covid-19 | PIB | Twitter
Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a meeting via video conference amid the lockdown to prevent spread of Covid-19 | PIB | Twitter

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday said a decision on extending the nationwide lockdown will be made after consulting chief ministers of all states on 11 April, but reiterated that a lockdown is the only solution to containing the spread of the disease.

The Prime Minister made his comments in his first interaction with all the parliamentary floor leaders of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha since the lockdown was imposed on 25 March. According to the initial orders, the lockdown will remain in place until 14 April.

In this time, India has seen its number of active Covid-19 cases jump from a few hundred to nearly 5,000. There have been over 140 deaths while more than 400 people have recovered. Worldwide, more than 1.44 million people have been infected.

“The PM told us that all indications are that the lockdown can’t be lifted. But his government will take a final decision only after he consults all the CMs,” Pinaki Misra, Biju Janata Dal’s leader in the Lok Sabha told ThePrint after the meeting that lasted over three-and-a-half hours.

The nationwide lockdown shut down everything except a few essential services, bringing the economy to a grinding halt. With less than a week left for the lockdown to end, many of the opposition leaders sought to know about the government’s next plan of action and if the lockdown will be extended.

Also read: Is talk of lifting lockdown premature or is it necessary to allow some economic activity?

‘Lockdown the only way’

Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party president and Rajya Sabha MP, said that due to the lockdown, many problems have erupted.

“It is important to cope with the pandemic. However, there should be state-wise planning. You should also consider a possibility of selective lock down, without compromising health and people’s livelihood,” Pawar tweeted after the video conference meeting with the PM.

To deliberate on the next move and hear suggestions, PM Modi interacted with floor leaders of parties with more than five MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

At a media briefing after the meeting, Congress leader in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad said that almost 80 per cent of those at the meeting were in the favour of extending the lockdown. “We also stressed on that but at the same time we left it to the PM to take a call on this issue,” he added.

Rajeev Ranjan Singh, Janata Dal (United) leader in Lok Sabha, told ThePrint that Modi said globally a lockdown has given good results and if it is not enforced strictly, the numbers (of cases) will only multiply. “The PM said that having a lockdown is the only way,” Singh said.

Also read: ‘Test more, prepare post-lockdown plan’ — over 800 scientists appeal to Modi govt

Impact of lockdown

In the meeting, several leaders cited the plight of daily wagers and demanded the Centre come up with more relief packages. Leaders also highlighted the constraints on funds many states have been facing and the acute shortage of protective medical gear such as gloves and masks, asking that the government ensure more supply of these.

“I told the PM that the Centre needs to do more to address the suffering of the migrant labourers. Whatever the government has done is not enough,” JD(U)’s Singh said.

Pawar said he raised the issue of the Tablighi Jamaat and how certain sections of media were playing on the religious angle.

“The Nizamuddin incident raised concerns about the spread of the disease … It is not right to blame or criticise any community … Media & social media should play a more proactive role … avoid actions that can lead to spreading hatred based on ethnicity, feelings of discrimination between communities,” he tweeted.

Azad said the Congress was demanding that some chief ministers should be added to the various task forces of cabinet ministers that have been constituted to dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Also read: Call it a mistake, not conspiracy against India, say Muslim scholars on Tablighi Jamaat event

Funds crunch

To address the issue, Singh said part of the suspended funds from Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) should be given to states.

“I suggested that the Centre should suspend MPLADS for the remaining term of the government and use the resources for containing the pandemic. But a percentage of the funds should be given to all state governments as they are facing huge resource constraints,” he said.

Trinamool Congress’ Sudip Bandyopadhyay demanded the Centre immediately release Bengal’s share of GST until March 2020. He also told the prime minister to revoke the decision to suspend MPLADS for two years.

“He told the PM to not stop the allocation of MPLAD. MPs are ready to give their full salary but MPLADS is needed to do a lot of work for people in constituencies,” Trinamool Congress sources said.

Bandyopadhyay also sought to know how much hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug believed to inhibit the coronavirus, India has at present. “Bandyopadhyay told the PM that he has heard US President Donald Trump asked India to supply the drug and wanted to know how much quantity India has at present and how much can be given to other countries,” a Trinamool Congress source said.

AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP A. Navaneethakrishnan flagged the issue of disruption in the supply chain of essential commodities. “We in the south get a lot of groceries from north India. But we are not getting supplies. I told the PM that the Centre should ensure that vehicles are allowed to move freely,” he told ThePrint.

The AIADMK leader also demanded more funds and raised the issue of shortage of health equipment like masks and gloves in the state. “Tamil Nadu is the second worst-affected state in India. We need more funds to ramp up our medical infrastructure,” he said.

Also read: India should make SuperCloud, disease tracking a must to overcome pandemics like Covid-19


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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