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‘Had you not been PM’ — praise and a poem for Modi during video chat with sarpanches




Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the 11th edition of DefExpo, in Lucknow on Wednesday | PTI
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking during the 11th edition of DefExpo, in Lucknow in February | PTI

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with gram panchayat members Friday morning to get feedback on how they are tackling the coronavirus outbreak became an eulogy session — with one sarpanch (village head) from Uttar Pradesh saying it would have been difficult to handle the situation if Modi was not the PM and another from Maharashtra reciting a poem in praise of Modi.

Briefing the PM via video conference about what all they are doing in their respective villages to contain the spread of the virus, none of the sarpanches said anything about any issues they are facing on account of the lockdown that has disrupted economic activities across India.

Barring one, nobody mentioned the challenges being faced by migrant workers from the villages who are stuck in other cities.

Bihar’s Ajay Singh Yadav, sarpanch of Dharniya gram panchayat, was the only one who raised the migrant issue.

Yadav said he has told migrant workers from his village, who are stuck in other states, to stay put until 3 May. This prompted the PM to tell Yadav that villagers should keep talking regularly to their near and dear ones stuck outside so that they don’t feel isolated.

This was the first such outreach by the PM to gram panchayats since the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Although rural India has mostly remained untouched by the virus but hundreds of migrant labourers who have returned from cities pose a great risk of carrying the infection home. 

Also read: These Bengal villagers found ways to keep Covid-19 out, instead of waiting for govt help

Villages showed world mantra of social distancing

Modi also used the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day Friday — every year on this day the best-performing gram panchayats and sarpanches are honoured by the prime minister — to drive home the importance of being self-reliant.

“Coronavirus pandemic has thrown up new challenges, which we never faced before but it has also made us learn new things. It is now important that villages become self-reliant for their basic needs,” Modi told the sarpanches.

The PM also said that it’s the villages in India that have given the world the mantra of “do gaj deh ki doori” (two-foot distance between people) to define social distancing in simpler terms to fight coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s because of your efforts that today people across the world are talking about how India is fighting the outbreak,” Modi said.  

Highlighting the importance of social distancing in the fight against Covid-19, the PM further said the virus is unique in the sense that it does not go to anyone’s house on its own. “It reaches there only when someone takes it there,” the PM said.

Modi said that notwithstanding the limited resources at its disposal, India has taken the challenge proactively and showed its resolve to move forward with new energy and new ways.  

e-GramSwaraj portal, Swamitva scheme launched

From putting barricades at the entry and exit points of villages to stop people from moving without valid reasons to taking sanitisation measures, distributing masks and holding awareness sessions, sarpanches from seven gram panchayats shared with the PM how they are trying to contain the spread of the virus in their respective villages. 

Varsha Singh of UP’s Nakti Dei gram panchayat told the PM that people in her village are following all the protocols and are very satisfied with the arrangements. “They are discussing about what would have happened had you not been the PM,” Singh said.

Modi replied that it is heartening to know that this kind of trust exists between the people and the government.

Asked if villagers are not tired because of the lockdown, Pune’s Priyanka Medankar of Medankarwadi gram panchayat told the PM that villagers know and understand that the PM is doing this for their good health. “So despite the fact that they are tired, they don’t mind adhering to the norms.”

Medankar also recited a poem in praise of Modi and said that in the fight against coronavirus, Modi is showing the entire world what needs to be done.   

Modi also launched e-GramSwaraj portal, which will help ensure real-time monitoring of gram panchayat development plans, and Swamitva scheme to map rural inhabited lands. The scheme will help provide clarity over property rights in rural areas.

Also read: Real social distancing: Special planes for India’s rich, police lathis for working-class poor


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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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