Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Thursday that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government had demonstrated political intransigence in dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He also demanded that the State come up with a “protocol” for jump-starting economic activities while dealing with the novel coronavirus.
Maharashtra is one of the most seriously affected States in India. Speaking at a video press conference, Mr. Fadnavis said the State had erred not only in its handling of the disease but also in taking care of inter-State workers who would not be “easily replaceable” by local labour following their reverse migration.
“The MVA government, and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in particular, is overly dependent on a group of bureaucrats, whereas a crisis like this requires political will and decisiveness. The government’s efforts are being lost in groupism in the bureaucracy and the Chief Minister’s failure to handle the administration,” he said.
Mr. Fadnavis said the high number of cases in Mumbai and Maharashtra was earlier attributed to a large number of tests, but it was no longer the case. The government’s recent decision not to test asymptomatic contacts of high-risk patients amounted to buying trouble. “The government also did not do enough off-take of free food grains offered by the Centre for the poor; up to 3 lakh ration card-holders got free grain only in May, and not in March or April. The less said the better about those without cards, as unlike other States, free ration was not being allotted to them. This is also one of the reasons for the vast reverse migration of inter-State labour,” he said.
Mr. Fadnavis welcomed the government’s decision to open a bureau of employment that would help local workers get jobs, following the massive reverse migration of inter-State workers. But it was not something that would help the State get on its feet fast, he said. “I welcome the move…, but there is not any easy replacement of workers and skill sets. It will take time. A State like Maharashtra, which got over 40% of all foreign direct investment that came to India, needs a protocol for starting economic activity in green zones. I spoke to many industry people, who said rules had not been framed for this yet. If we don’t set a protocol soon, we may miss the bus on the economic front,” he said.