‘We have taken steps to stem virus spread,’ says Jayant Patil, state cabinet minister
Patil tells Shalaka Shinde the steps taken by the state government to check the virus spread and sealing off ground zero IslampurUpdated: Apr 01, 2020 17:24 IST
Pune Jayant Patil, Maharashtra cabinet minister for irrigation and water resources, is also the guardian minister of Sangli where a home quarantine lapse left a four-member family who was tested Covid-19 positive to later affect 24 members their clan. Patil tells Shalaka Shinde the steps taken by the state government to check the virus spread and sealing off ground zero Islampur
Is the lockdown working? What is your view of the situation in Islampur?
The lockdown will work. That is the only way of stopping the spread of the virus. The situation in Islampur is under control, and we hope it will not spread. Ground zero was cordoned off a week ago.
The family has made statements that they were not informed about the situation at the international airport when they entered the country.
I was told by the police yesterday [Monday] that Dubai, the city from where the family landed in Mumbai, was not under “high-risk” places during their arrival. Hence, they were not checked. Later, when they visited a local hospital here (Islampur), they were asked to go to Civil Hospital, Sangli. They were given tablets and told to remain indoors. I took a meeting on March 18 and asked the officials to stamp those with travel history. The stamping started from the morning of March 19. This family was also stamped and they visited the hospital again on March 22 complaining of medical issues. The local hospital immediately sent them to Sangli and their swap samples were sent to NIV Pune and the reports released on March 23 were positive. We immediately carried out tests of first contacts and those found positive were placed in quarantine.
The outbreak has come at the beginning of your term as a state cabinet minister.
This is not a local political situation, but a global health issue. We should not draw political conclusions, but take all possible steps to save people.
Future course of action
We will be starting a testing centre soon. I’m going to Miraj today [Tuesday]. After my return, a lab to carry out Covid-19 tests will be set up. The lab will function from Wednesday evening or Thursday morning as there is no such facility in Sangli, Kolhapur and Ratnagiri areas.
Will you be staying in Islampur to review the situation?
Where I stay is not important as it is not a flood-like situation that I have to meet people regularly. I am in constant touch with officers.
The response to lockdown
The lockdown has been received fairly well by the people. The lockdown was announced by our state government and a curfew was called for before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the lockdown. 21-day lockdown is a long period, but as scientifically it has been observed that the duration will help in checking the virus spread, so we do not have any other option.
The situation post-lockdown
If the lockdown is extended beyond April 14, the economy will come to a standstill. The authorities will find it difficult to cope up with the situation. Post-lockdown, production units all over Maharashtra will have to start all over again. The Covid-19 cases should drop after lockdown. The government may extend the lockdown period if infected numbers do not drop.
Message for your constituency
Essentials are in place. All towns and urban areas, including Islampur, are taken care of. People are co-operating. We have asked police machinery to deal with those who flout lockdown norms, softly but firmly. There is fear among masses as well which is preventing them from venturing out.
How do you view the issue of migrant labourers getting stuck at borders?
I don’t want to criticise anyone, but we should have thought about migrant labourers and their safety, stay and food requirements. It could have been planned in a better way. It is unfortunate that migrants are left to walk on the streets to reach their native places. In Maharashtra, we have set up camps for them to stay and be fed. We should have made them understand that it is a temporary phase, but the migrants felt that the crisis will be long term.
Is not 21-day lockdown a long period?
As I said, they feared that this could be 2-3 months. They felt that if they’re not going to have jobs here, it’s better to go back home. So, people migrated back to their own villages - UP, Bihar, Andhra and Karnataka. In the night, people are seen walking on highways.
If the lockdown continues, is the government prepared to feed them?
We have already started doing that through Shiv Bhojan.
There are complaints that these canteens are closed due to fear of virus?
Yes, that is happening. Whoever has taken up Shiv Bhojan canteen projects have been asked to restart canteens.
Any incentive for them to open up?
It is a seva (service) now. If everybody starts asking for incentive, how will the government be able to give? You keep social distancing and start serving. Fortunately, the virus has not spread among masses so nobody needs to worry. The places where we have found cases have been cordoned off.