Have asked govt to allow economic activity in the pandemic-free areas: Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh RawatUpdated: Apr 28, 2020 00:03 IST
NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand has not lost any lives so far to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The state is taking measures to ensure that the rural areas are insulated from the pandemic. In an email interview to Smriti Kak Ramachandran, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said the state has sought the Centre’s permission to gradually scale up economic activity.
Apart from suggesting an increase in the number of days under MNREGA, what other suggestions did you put forth at the meeting with the Prime Minister today?
The country today finds itself in a very secure position, thanks to the historic and the timely decisions taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is considered as a parent or a guardian and he’s taking along the whole country.
At the video conference with the Prime Minister [on Monday], I suggested that the duration of work days under MNREGA should be increased from 100 days to 250 days as this will provide immense relief to people in the rural areas. Some relaxations have already been offered post April 20. We have also requested that it should be considered which other sectors can resume economic activity after following the necessary medical protocol. And we believe we must follow Prime Minister Modi’s Jaan Bhi, Jahan Bhi mantra. There is a need to maintain strict vigil in the sensitive areas and at the same time there is a need to increase economic activity in those areas that are free from the pandemic and are not in the hot spots.
How is Uttarakhand preparing for relaxation after the lockdown? Are there any specific areas where you want activity to resume?
We are ready for any situation. After May 3, when the lockdown is relaxed, whatever guidelines are issued by the Centre will be followed by us and complied with. There are many people who want the lockdown to be further extended. However, we also feel that economic activity in the rural areas and in those hilly areas of the state that are free from the pandemic should gradually be scaled up.
We have requested the Central government to allow us to do this. In several sectors, such as pharma, food processing and agriculture related sectors we have begun to allow activity, but this is being done after following the guidelines issued by the Centre.
The economy of Uttarakhand is heavily dependent on tourism, how will the state cope with the loss caused by the pandemic?
Uttarakhand is a major tourist destination and it also gets a lot of traffic from religious tourism; but because of the global pandemic these sectors have come to a complete standstill. However, for us, the country and humanity are more important.
On the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya we open the gates of Gangotri and Yamunotri, but ensured physical distancing protocols and made the wearing of masks mandatory. People in Uttarakhand have a steely resolve. We suffered nature’s fury in 2013 [when the state suffered devastating flash floods], yet we were able to restart the Char Dham yatra and organise it the way it was held before the floods.
We are very confident that we will be able to defeat this pandemic and Uttarakhand will again emerge as a tourist destination.
What are your expectations from the Centre for bringing the state back on track after the pandemic? Are there any specific demands that you have made?
Right now our full focus is on defeating the corona pandemic. Everyone across the world is fighting to contain this virus from spreading. And it is our good fortune that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading from the front and has emerged as a strong leader who took the right decision at the right time. He has been consulting and speaking to chief ministers on a regular basis; he is aware of all the ground realities and we are confident that when the time is right, not only Uttarakhand, but all other states will get whatever is needed to help revive the economy. But I want to say this is not the time for such things, our focus has to be only on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
There is a concern among environmentalists on the proposal to use some portions of the Rajaji National Park for the upcoming Mahakumbh. Will this decision be revisited?
Environment protection is a key part of our life in Uttarakhand. We are aware and sensitised about the need for environmental protection. What we have suggested is to seek permission for parking during the MahaKumbh in a part of the Rajaji National Park where the river has dried up and there are no trees. And this is not going to adversely affect the environment in any way.
The state has over 50 cases so far and no deaths. What is being done to ensure that the numbers do not go up?
So far we have had 51 people testing positive for Covid-19. More than half of these cases have been discharged from hospital and are back home. Nine other districts are free from the pandemic and we have been largely successful in controlling the spread of virus in the state. To ensure there is no slip up, we are taking the help of the ordinary people. So far we have got the support of people in helping curb the spread of the virus as everyone has been conscientious in adhering to the protocol of the lockdown, whether it’s maintaining physical distance or what is known as do gaz doori, bohot zaroori. We have taken special care to ensure that the virus does not spread to the rural areas.
We have been very strict in ensuring that intra district movement is allowed. Our doctors deserve appreciation for the fact that so far the state does not have a single death from the virus.