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Gadkari wants to resume road projects before lockdown ends to provide jobs

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Nitin Gadkari | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Nitin Gadkari | Praveen Jain | ThePrint


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New Delhi: India is seeking ways to resume construction of highways and arterial roads in districts least impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, and some factories as it charts out a plan to revive Asia’s third-largest economy.

Builders were constructing 31 kilometers (19.3 miles) of roads a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the lockdown starting March 25. India plans to spend $12 billion to build 15,500 km of highways in the new financial year started April 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced in her budget speech on Feb. 1.

“We need to see if there’s a way to start work to ensure employment for at least a section of daily wage workers,” Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for roads and small and medium industries said in an interview. “If businesses and contractors can provide sanitizers, masks and ensure social distancing, we could see if at least some activity can be restarted.”

Modi’s administration faces the tough choice of lifting the lockdown to sustain the livelihoods of millions who have little to eat, or keep the restrictions in place to check the spread of the pandemic. More than 450 million informal sector workers who depend on daily wages as low as $4 are without have bben without work for nearly three weeks since the restrictions were imposed.

The prime minister is scheduled to address the nation on Wednesday morning and is expected to announce an extension of the lockdown to April 30. There may be relaxation for some industries to partially resume operations and some other steps to salvage the economy.

The federal government is considering a proposal to restart 25% of the capacity at automobile, electronics and textile factories, people with knowledge of the matter said. In a letter written by the industry ministry to home affairs, opening up of certain sectors in single shifts with adequate sanitization norms and social distancing has been proposed, they said, asking not to be identified as talks are private. The partial lifting will start with small businesses and export units.

More than 9,000 Indians have been infected by the virus that has caused over 300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Modi’s administration is poised to extend the lockout that is scheduled to end on Tuesday to contain infections.

The government is consulting states to restart small businesses working with tribal areas in India’s poorest 115 districts, Gadkari said. Authorities have also sought help from industry associations and labor unions in areas where there could be manpower shortages as thousands of migrant workers are either housed in camps or have relocated to their homes in rural areas, he said. – Bloomberg


Also read: States want Modi govt to release grants and GST dues, raise borrowing limits to fight crisis


 

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India

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

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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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