NCP chief defends stringent restrictions imposed by the State government
Amid the Centre-State stand-off over the availability of vaccines in Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar said on Thursday that the Centre had promised to help the State, the worst-hit in terms of soaring COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
In a live address on Facebook, Mr. Pawar, whose NCP is in alliance with the Shiv Sena and the Congress in the Uddhav Thackeray-led ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ (MVA) government, said he spoke to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday and that the latter had said he would help Maharashtra combat the pandemic.
The situation in the State was alarming, Mr. Pawar said as he defended the stringent restrictions imposed by the State government. The rapid spread of the virus and the dramatic daily case spikes had left the government with no option, he said.
“The situation in Maharashtra is grim. Health workers in the State are doing their best to control the spread of the infection. But to preserve the health and save lives, stern measures are imperative and the State government is taking them. Everybody’s cooperation here is of the utmost importance,” said the NCP chief.
The Centre, too, was in favour of tightening restrictions to break the virus chain, he said. There was apprehension among labourers, farmers and traders that the new curbs would affect them severely, but people could not ignore reality. “Hence, I appeal to all stakeholders, including the Opposition, to cooperate with the government. To protect the lives of citizens, some stringent measures are imperative,” Mr. Pawar said.
Mr. Pawar’s attempt at mending fences with the Centre comes a day after State Health Minister Rajesh Tope urged the Centre to expedite the delivery of urgently needed vaccine doses, warning that Maharashtra had barely three days’ stock left. Mr. Tope had said the State’s daily vaccination rate was the fastest in the country and that Maharashtra needed a steady supply of at least 40 lakh doses each week.
In response, Mr. Harsh Vardhan had come down heavily on the Maharashtra government, accusing it of trying to cover its “failure” to contain the pandemic by making “deplorable” attempts through “irresponsible” statements that could spread panic among the people.
In his sharp riposte on Thursday, Mr. Tope accused the Centre of supplying fewer vaccines to Maharashtra despite the State having the highest number of cases in the country. Citing figures from the Centre’s latest release order, Mr. Tope said, “Maharashtra has only been given 7.5 lakh vaccine doses, while Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and other States have been given more”.
He once again warned the Centre that the State had barely enough stock to tide over the next 36 hours.
“We do not want to quarrel with the Centre. It is indeed cooperating with Maharashtra and we have no complaints. However, it should take into account Maharashtra’s need for 40 lakh vaccines every week. Currently, Maharashtra has about 9 lakh vaccines. This will last only for a day-and-a-half. Although the Centre has provided us with 17 lakh new vaccines, they are insufficient,” Mr. Tope said.
He refuted Mr. Harsh Vardhan’s allegation that Maharashtra’s health system was not working efficiently to rein in the contagion.
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