RANCHI: Accusing the Centre of politicking at a juncture when the country is fighting against a raging second wave of COVID-19, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “weather the storm” together with states and focus on surviving the “hurricane”.
“This is not the time to meddle in politics when we are caught in a storm. This is not the time for leg-pulling. (Let us) weather the storm together Survive the hurricane and take the boat to shore together … But if you (Centre) continue fighting in mid-sea, you will sink and we (states) will sink (too),” Soren told PTI in an interview.
Urging Prime Minister Modi to “work together” with states during these difficult times, Soren accused him of instead causing damage to India’s federal structure.
Currently, the country is experiencing an aggressive second phase of the pandemic, and to address this there is need for proper coordination between the Centre and states, he said.
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“I feel pain … prime minister through video conferencing speaks to DMs (District Magistrates) and DCs (Deputy Collectors) but does not allow chief ministers to talk. In a federal system, you don”t accept the state”s leadership…such a precedent was never set in the last 70 years…If state governments start doing this with the Centre what will happen?,” Soren questioned.
Earlier this month, the chief minister had described Modi”s phone call to him on the COVID-19 situation in the country as the PM”s “Mann Ki Baat”, where the conversation was one-sided, which had resulted in a political slugfest. Accusing the Centre of failing “miserably” to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, Soren questioned why the Centre was unable to assess the situation and “mismanaged” vaccination and medical relief.
“You (Centre) neither made arrangements for launch of a proper vaccination drive, nor oxygen distribution or any other thing….You gave a message that we have won the corona war and everyone went into sleep mode…Now people are bearing the brunt.Had there been proper preparedness such a situation would not have arisen,” he said.
Launching a scathing attack on the prime minister, Soren asked why a lockdown was imposed by the Centre last year during the first wave of COVID-19 without making arrangements for lakhs of poor people and helpless and migrant workers.
“Such a lockdown killed many and now you preach no lockdowns which could have resulted in more killings,” he said.
Hitting out at the Centre on vaccine distribution, he said a state like Jharkhand has almost exhausted doses for people in the 18-44 years age group and barely has a stock of two three days.
Giving vent to his anger over oxygen distribution, the CM said Jharkhand supplied 34 per cent of the required life- saving gas to the country but had to beg the Centre for allocation of the gas to the state.
“We cater to 34 per cent of the country”s oxygen need but we had to request the Centre with folded hands to get the life-saving gas. We need the Union government”s permission to get it from our state”s plants. It was the state government that gave permission for setting up plants here and not the Centre,” Soren said.
The chief minister said he had raised the issue to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and was asked to send a letter on the issue.
“We are ready to accept you (Centre) as a guardian but what is this? If you have taken plants under your control, you should have given direction to give first priority to the state. This pinches me… This is the time to work together and not to fight.
“We are ready to accept them as guardians as we are the most backward state in the country. But do not squeeze our resources, All our economic resources you have taken under your control, you do not give us proper compensation,” Soren said.
He also pointed out that the vaccine wastage figure projected for the state was much higher than the actual number
The Jharkhand government had said it pointed out that CoWIN portal till May 27 erroneously showed the state”s vaccine wastage figure at “38.45” per cent, much higher than the actual, and the Centre agreed to rectify it. It had shot off a letter to the Centre on May 27, requesting it to keep the record right.
Terming the registration process on CoWIN portal as a complicated exercise, Soren said Jharkhand lacked digital literacy and that is why it has made a plea to the Supreme Court to allow it to roll out its own platform.
Anticipating that a large proportion of tribal people may not get a chance of being inoculated in the ongoing vaccination drive against COVID-19 due to the non-availability of smartphones and lack of internet access in remote areas, the Jharkhand government wants to use its own “more user- friendly” app for registration.
According to the 2011 census, the state has 86.45 lakh tribal people, 27 per cent of the total population of 3.29 crore.
Soren alleged that the BJP has expertise in distorting things, referring to his remarks over free distribution of shrouds, which, he said, was blown out of proportion when he had announced the same on the request of MPs and MLAs including from BJP.
“I have been engaging in talks with BJP MPs, MLAs through video conferencing, panchayat, district parishads…, they themselves pointed out that lockdown is there and people are facing difficulty even in arranging shrouds. But things are being distorted,” Soren said.
The BJP had lashed out at Soren for his announcement and said he should have focused on providing free medicines.