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Fact and Fiction

The Statesman logo The Statesman 20-09-2020 Statesman News Service
Fact and Fiction © Provided by The Statesman Fact and Fiction

Nityanand Rai, Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, has informed the Lok Sabha that the Government of India successfully blunted the spread of Covid-19 by imposing country-wide lockdown.

Any mass movement of people would have spread the disease very fast in all parts of the country. The lockdown period helped the government create much required additional health infrastructure. During this time, dedicated isolation beds recorded a 22-fold increase and dedicated ICU beds increased 14 times. Similarly, laboratory capacity for testing Covid increased 10 times. The limited indigenous manufacturing capacity for masks, personal protective equipment and ventilators was enhanced to attain self reliance.

By slowing down the spread of the pandemic, India has prevented an estimated 14 to 29 lakh cases and 37 to 78 thousand deaths, Rai said while replying to a question put by Manish Tewari of the Congress. Replying to a question by Mala Roy, he said the exodus of large numbers of migrant workers was triggered by panic created by fake news regarding the duration of the lockdown and because migrant labourers were worried about adequate supply of basic necessities like food, drinking water, health services and shelter. The Union government was, however, fully conscious of this and took all necessary measures to ensure that during the lockdown period no citizen would be deprived of basic amenities.

Six retired bureaucrats ~ KP Fabian, MG Devasahayam, Meena Gupta, Somasundar Burra, Amit Bhaduri and Madhu Bhaduri ~ have approached the Supreme Court of India with a plea conveying their concern over the Union government’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic and the deleterious impact it has had on the fundamental rights of citizens. They have sought an independent inquiry by a Commission appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, into the government’s “gross mismanagement” of Covid-19 in India.

The importance of the inquiry resides in the fact that the government has stalled an inquiry by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee into its response to the pandemic. The plea states an inquiry is essential as multiple lapses have been committed on behalf of the government such as its failure to undertake timely and effective measures for containing the transmission of the disease within India despite being notified by WHO in January itself, and failure to adhere to “statutory obligations” under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, including drawing up a National Plan under Section 11 or issuing guidelines for providing minimum standards of relief to vulnerable sections of society under Section 12.

The petitioners allege the government failed to consult the National Task Force appointed by it on 18 March, which consisted of experts in the fields of epidemiology and public health, before imposing a nationwide lockdown that spawned a humanitarian and economic crisis of gigantic proportions. Only an independent Commission to be headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court would bring out complete and provide valuable lessons for dealing with future pandemics of this nature

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