Lockdown only way out; police will be humane

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Mar 28, 2020 05:26 PM IST

In a telephonic interview, Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan spoke to Hindustan Times about the efforts in place and implications of the lockdown.

Rajasthan has had 54 cases and two deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a telephonic interview, state chief minister Ashok Gehlot spoke to Hindustan Times about the efforts in place and implications of the lockdown:

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.(HT file photo)
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.(HT file photo)

Q: You were the first chief minister to order a complete state-wide lockdown. Why?

A: We saw across the world wherever lockdown was announced, the situation came under control. That alerted us. It was a hard decision but we had to go for it.

Q: How are you reaching out to the workers of Rajasthan who are stuck in other states?

A: So far, two hundred thousand workers have returned from different states. Now that the Centre has now decided to allow the migrant workers to go to their respective states, hopefully all of them will return. I have also written letters to chief ministers of different states requesting them to provide food, shelter and medical care to those from Rajasthan stranded there. I have told the CMs that we will bear the expenditure incurred on them and have also apprised them that we are taking good care of people from other states stranded in Rajasthan.

Q: How are you planning to deal with the situation in Bhilwara, which has emerged as a hotspot with two deaths and 21 cases?

A: We have imposed curfew and declared Bhilwara as a zero mobility area. Our teams are working round the clock in the area. We have also conducted a survey of over 5.33 lakh people in 1.06 lakh households. As many as 6,445 people have been home-quarantined and 50 are in isolation at government and private medical facilities. We have acquired hotels, resorts, hostels and dharamshalas in the town to set up over 1,500 quarantine beds and 14,400 normal beds to meet any emergency situation. Besides, a 24-hour screening centre has also been established. A team of 1,500 health workers and 2,400 police personnel is currently undertaking the huge screening exercise to trace cases in Bhilwara.

Q: You spoke to the Prime Minister on Friday. Did you seek any help from the central government?

A: I apprised him of the steps taken by the state government to contain the pandemic. I requested for ventilators and personal protection equipment (PPE) for doctors and health workers. The Prime Minister assured me of all help. I also spoke with home minister Amit Shah and sought central help in dealing with the crisis.

Q: What steps are you taking to ensure people don’t face shortage of essentials and medicines?

A: It is our commitment that nobody sleeps hungry in Rajasthan and it is our duty to wipe all tears. We have also requested every family in Rajasthan to make extra food for those who cannot afford. This is the time to share and take care of the underprivileged. On our part, we are constantly reviewing measures taken to provide food and medicines to the poor in villages and cities and to old age homes, orphanages, shelter homes and all homes for the deprived and destitute. We have allowed home delivery services by e-commerce portals and our officials but it will take time to put in place an appropriate system for this.

Q: There are reports of police atrocities during the lockdown. Have you given directions to the police to deal with the situation appropriately?

A: We have asked the police to be humane in their approach and ensure that people do not face any inconvenience in getting food and medicines, but at the same time, it is imperative for them to strictly implement the restrictions during the lockdown period. Those coming out of their homes are putting at risk the lives of others.. If necessary, we will conduct an army drill as well. Our priority is to save lives.

Q: Are we in for an extended period of lockdown?

A: Nobody can answer this at this time, neither the Prime Minister nor a Chief Minister. Much depends on how far we are able to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

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    Aurangzeb Naqshbandi covers politics and keeps a close watch on developments in Jammu & Kashmir. He has been a journalist for 16 years.

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