New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) The Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government and Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government are “responsible” for two worst migrant crisis where hundreds of migrant workers took to street violating countrywide lockdown, said cricketer-turned-BJP MP Gautam Gambhir in an interview to IANS.
Gambhir even hit out at Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for taking the confrontational route with Centre’s inter-ministerial committee that went to get a sense of West Bengal’s COVID-19 situation first-hand. Gambhir said when allegations of data manipulation crop up against a state government, it is Ministry of Home Affairs’s duty to step in and ascertain facts. Many BJP leaders have alleged that Mamata Banerjee government hushed up actual COVID-19 cases.
Q: How is Gautam Gambhir surviving the lockdown? What does he do throughout the day?
A: The priority of every public representative is the same during such a grave situation. First is to make sure that people follow all advisories and there is no panic or confusion. Second, those in need must get essentials. Most of my day goes into monitoring the relief efforts being carried out by my team. Making sure that places where positive cases are found are sanitized thoroughly. Apart from this, I have finally got some time to spend with my family after decades.
Q: You are an MP from Delhi which saw an unprecedented migrant crisis after lockdown was announced. Who do you hold responsible for it?
A: The state governments of Maharashtra and Delhi were primarily responsible for the major migrant crisis. It is the responsibility of state governments to make sure that those who are without a job due to the lockdown are provided with food and shelter. Lack of strategy and not stopping rumour mongering resulted in thousands coming to the streets.
Q: How would you rate Kejriwal out of 10 for his handling of the outbreak in Delhi?
A: I appeal to the media to conduct independent surveys of all the shelter homes and hospitals in the national capital. The truth is Delhi government hospitals and shelter homes are in dire straits. The truth is there for everyone to see. I have raised the issue of lack of PPE kits in Delhi government hospitals because I got distress calls from doctors and nurses. This is not the time for political one-upmanship. But constructive criticism is required to increase the efficiency of the government. If lakhs of people are being fed everyday, then why were migrants lining up at Anand Vihar in thousands? All BJP MPs are working tirelessly to serve the people without a new advertisement every day. Right now, the welfare of people is of utmost importance.
Q: In a rare defiance, Mamata Banerjee hit back at Amit Shah-led Home Ministry, initially blocking Central teams for inspection of seriously affected areas in Bengal. Your views.
A: There are several reports emerging from Bengal about violation of lockdown in many districts. Also, reports of manipulation of statistics regarding the number of cases and deaths are also floating around. It is incumbent upon the Home Ministry to conduct an inquiry to make sure that citizens of Bengal are safe and that COVID-19 is being dealt with properly. The Bengal CM’s politicisation of the entire issue is completely unfortunate and is not appropriate at a time when the entire country is facing a common enemy.
Q: How is Gautam Gambhir helping his constituency survive lockdown? What’s the role of your (Gautam Gambhir) Foundation in this?
A: The foundation’s primary objective is to make sure that nobody sleeps hungry in Delhi. Each day we are serving up to 8,000-10,000 people through relief ration kits as well as cooked food for the homeless. Apart from that we have distributed around 5,000 N95 masks and provided 2,200 PPE kits to Delhi government Hospitals. We are simultaneously distributing clean sheets, soaps and bedding kits to shelter homes to maintain hygiene. Around 2,000 such kits have been distributed. I am indebted to my team and the workers of my party who are putting service before self and risking their lives every day so that we can serve the poor and downtrodden.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])