At a time when the whole world is fighting the coronavirus coronavirus pandemic, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath speaks to mathrubhuni.com on the measures taken by his government to prevent the spread of the pandemic, how the people of UP is handling the situation and what the future holds for the state post COVID-19.
Q1 With COVID-19 raging all over the world and taking a huge toll on the human kind, how is Uttar Pradesh countering this pandemic?
We took several drastic decisions as soon as the coronavirus alert was sounded. On March 22, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced lockdown across India, we prepared an action plan in a time bound manner. Due to the effective implementation of the action plan, we got considerable success in controlling the spread of coronavirus. We sealed the borders of Uttar Pradesh, made people in the state aware of social distancing and marked the hotspot areas and sealed them. It was ensured that only the movement of medical, sanitization and home delivery teams were allowed in hotspot areas. I constituted a team of 11 officials who ensured effective implementation of the action plan in close cooperation with ministers. Today there are 10,000 isolation beds, 20,000 quarantine beds, 1,000 ventilators and 17 testing labs in the state. This is the result of our hard work and planning. A month ago we had one lab where only 50 tests were conducted per day. Today, 4,000 tests are being conducted daily in 17 labs. Along with holding a review meeting with Team 11 everyday, I have also been interacting with the district magistrates and divisional commissioners.
2: Can you explain the steps taken by your government to enforce the lockdown?
Our government did not impose a sudden lockdown all over the state. Rather we implemented this system in a phased manner. On 22 March, on the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Janata Curfew was welcomed across the country, including Uttar Pradesh. As part of the first phase, our government implemented the lockdown from March 23 in 15 districts. In the second phase, this system was implemented in 17 districts. After that, the lockdown implemented by the Central Government from 25 March to 14 April was taken seriously by the UP Government and the people here. The entire state remained closed for 21 days except for the supply of essential commodities. People stayed in their homes and supported the government in the ongoing fight against the disease. From April 15, the Centre extended the lockdown to 19 days which our government is following with all seriousness.
3: The lockdown is now extended up to May 3rd and with the harvest period on and UP being an agrarian economy, what are the steps taken for a safe harvest?
Our government took special care to ensure that farmers do not face any problem due to the lockdown. We gave exemptions to the use of combine harvesters and other equipment used in the harvesting of rabi crops. We also allowed farmers to employ labourers in their fields. As a result, the farmers in the state are harvesting their crops while following social distancing. From April 2, we have also started purchasing crops at the minimum support price (MSP). We have so far purchased 60 lakh quintals of wheat through purchasing centers and mandis. More than 70 percent has been purchased from the homes of farmers. Uttar Pradesh is the first state in the country to do so. This year we will buy 2.64 lakh metric tons of mustard, 2.01 lakh metric tons of gram and 1.21 lakh metric tons of lentils at MSP. This purchase will last for 90 days. Along with this, we have given permission to open fertilizer and seed shops for sowing of Zayed crops.
4: While highly advanced countries including the USA and UK are found wanting in preventing the pandemic, how do you rate the performance of the Government of India in containing the disease?
I am grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, after sensing the magnitude of the crisis, created a comprehensive action plan and implemented it across the country. Today, not only the 130 crore population of India is feeling proud of his leadership, but the entire world is appreciating his guidance and foresight. Many reputed agencies in the world are also praising the steps taken by Prime Minister Modi in the ongoing war against coronavirus. We were considerably successful in controlling COVID-19 due to the time-bound action plan and its effective implementation.
5: UP is a developing state and its literacy rate is below the national average. Isn’t it difficult to convince such a population to abide by the lockdown?
It is not the case. Uttar Pradesh has faced epidemics in the past too. We have overcome diseases like encephalitis. The literacy rate here may be low, but people are aware. The people of Uttar Pradesh are well aware about the dreaded coronavirus, so the citizens here are supporting the government along with supporting the lockdown. The Uttar Pradesh government is not facing any problem in making people follow the lockdown. It has been successfully implemented throughout the state.
6: Is there adequate supply of PPE kits, rapid testing kits and N95 masks?
Uttar Pradesh has the availability of sufficient equipments required to fight against coronavirus. PPE kits and N-95 masks are available in all hospitals in the state. We also decided to establish a three-tier system (Level-1, 2 and 3) of hospitals in every district for better treatment of COVID-19. So far, 78 hospitals of level one, 64 government hospitals of level two, and 6 hospitals of level three have been prepared in the state.
7: How do you feel about the possible slump in the economy and what are the steps taken to bring it back to a level playing field?
It is natural for the economy to witness a plunge after so many days of lockdown. It has not only affected India but the whole world. To give a boost to the economy of the state, we have restarted 6,603 units which were closed during the lockdown and construction work of Purvanchal, Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur link expressways has also been started. This has provided employment to 10,000 labourers. Besides, 119 sugar mills continued their operation in the state while observing social distancing during the entire period of lockdown. This helped in generating over 60,0000 employment opportunities. We are connecting 5 lakh labourers with MNREGA. These labourers came back from other states of the country during the initial phase of lockdown and we are also preparing job cards of those who do not have one. Likewise, the process of bringing back the remaining 15 lakh workers from UP stranded in other states has been initiated in a phased manner and we are preparing a detailed action plan to ensure that they get employment. In future, the ODOP scheme launched by our government and the MSME industries in the state will strengthen the economy of UP. Apart from this, we are encouraging those companies to invest in Uttar Pradesh that have shut down their business in China due to coronavirus.
8: What will be the Indian economy like post COVID-19? and being a senior leader of BJP and Chief Minister of UP, India's most populous state, what is your take on the measures to be adopted for the revival of Indian economy?
Once the coronavirus epidemic comes to an end, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will grow rapidly and the country's economy will become strong. We can strengthen our economy by empowering villages. In the last 6 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken many steps in this direction. Today, villages in the country are becoming independent. Our BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh is encouraging ODOP and MSMEs, through which people have got employment at the local level. In the coming times, these schemes will not only strengthen the economy of the state but also of the country.