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Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren overseeing relief operations amid the coronavirus crisis | Photo: ANI
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren overseeing relief operations amid the coronavirus crisis | Photo: ANI


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Ranchi: Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has rubbished allegations that the Tablighi Jamaat is the main factor behind the spread of coronavirus cases in India.

In an interview with ThePrint, Soren said: “If the number of coronavirus patients in India has gone up only due to Jamaatis, then what about rest of the world? Why is the situation so bad there?

“Diseases and ailment do not differentiate on the basis of caste or religion. Some mentally deprived people are doing politics on this issue and spreading all kind of confusion.”


Also read: 30% of India’s Covid-19 positive caseload linked to Tablighi Jamaat meet, says govt


Jharkhand’s Covid-19 hotspot

Soren’s state has so far reported 32 cases of Covid-19, with the Hindpirhi area of state capital Ranchi being identified as a hotspot. Jharkhand’s first case — related to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin last month — was reported from this locality, and there have so far been 17 cases in this area, which has a population of about 1.25 lakh.

This has led to all kinds of rumours in Hindpirhi over the last several days, with incidents of alleged attacks on medical teams and cleaning staff also coming to the fore. Several FIRs have been lodged, and the entire locality has been sealed.

In a news report published on 17 April, a member of the cleaning staff at the state’s largest hospital, RIIMS, which is currently serving as Covid-19 test centre, was seen cleaning the surfaces without wearing gloves or shoe covers.

But Soren sought to allay fears after visiting Hindpirhi Friday. “Since the entire Hindpirhi locality has been completely locked, every family has been provided with rations for 15 days. If there is any need to extend the lockdown period, then more rations will be delivered. There is absolutely no reason for people to panic,” he said.

Slow pace of testing

One source of worry for people is the fact that only 3,751 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in the entire state.

Soren acknowledged this, but said the pace had been stepped up.

“I do acknowledge that the current pace of testing is quite slow, but it has gone up recently. If the central government provides adequate assistance, we will be able to intensify it further,” he said.

“The Centre’s nod is required to open new test centres. Test kits and other necessary items are still arriving. In the time to come, we will be able to test a large number of people,” Soren assured.

Fund crunch and unemployment

In the battle against Covid-19, Jharkhand is also facing a fund crunch, and Soren is seeking the Centre’s help.

“In the post-lockdown period, Jharkhand’s condition is likely to worsen further. The central government should extend assistance for handling that crisis too,” the CM said.

“Funding should be increased for MNREGA corpus. Here, we are not being able to give more than Rs 200 to the labourers under MNREGA, while several developed states are giving out as much as Rs 300 per day. This is why labourers do not stay in Jharkhand and migrate to other places. It is a different matter that we have not sought any special package from the Centre for this.”

Asked about the need to seek central aid when Jharkhand has about Rs 5,000 crore in the District Mineral Fund, Soren said: “The DMF indeed has a corpus of Rs 5,000 crore, but it will be hard to tackle the upcoming crisis with this fund only.”

“Mining companies operating in Jharkhand owe more than Rs 50,000 crore to the state government. These include some central PSUs like Central Coalfields Limited and Bharat Coking Coal Limited. If the central government reimburses this amount to us, we will be able to handle the adverse situations expected in the near future. We have requested PM Modi in this regard.”

Jharkhand already has high unemployment, and if even half of its estimated eight lakh migrant workers return to the state, the situation will become grimmer.

Asked about the government’s strategy in handling this problem, Soren said: “Officials have been asked to prepare a detailed plan. We will provide special focus to agriculture-based industries and small scale industries.”


Also read: Modi govt employees irked by pressure to donate to PM CARES Fund to fight Covid-19


Shut down mining, don’t mess with nature

Soren also claimed that contrary to public perception, mining does not generate too much royalty for the state. In fact, the state actually incurs more losses due to mines.

“It will be better if all mines are closed. Countries around the globe have started to close the mines operating there. We should stop messing with nature now. Diseases like Covid are the result of messing with nature,” Soren claimed.

Food for the needy

According to the 2011 Census, Jharkhand’s population was 3.3 crore, of which 76 per cent lives in rural areas.

Soren, whose Jharkhand Mukti Morcha rode to power last December in coalition with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, has made arrangements to provide food to the needy, but ‘CM Dal-Bhat’ kitchens have next to no reach in rural areas.

Asked about this, Soren said: “Cooked food is being prepared and distributed at more than 6,000 centres in the state. Ration card holders are getting double rations. The state government’s preparations are not the best, but they are also not below average.”

Children will soon be provided milk, he added.

Soren’s government has also denied figures related to starvation deaths, including those that occurred under the previous BJP regime headed by Raghubar Das.

Assistance via Sahayata app

Following the lead taken by Nitish Kumar’s government in neighbouring Bihar, the Jharkhand government Thursday announced it would provide monetary assistance to migrant workers stuck outside the state.

“An app named ‘Jharkhand Corona Sahayata’ has been launched for this purpose. It has been developed by the National Informatics Centre. People who register on this app will be sent Rs 1,000,” Soren said.

“All the required data will be collected in the next few days and then the money will be sent via bank transfers. If we are able to raise our corpus, more money will be transferred.”

On the complaint that officials are not receiving calls from people, the CM said: “If they are busy on the phone all the time, then who will do the work? We have launched a call centre for this, which can handle 100 calls at a time.

“We are receiving data; we are providing relief to people. We have also sought assistance from some NGOs in this regard.”


Also read: FIR against ex-IAS officer K. Gopinathan, Prashant Bhushan for tweets on govt’s Covid response


 

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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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