Visionary Talk with Kirit Somaiya: State mismanaged pandemic, is hiding real figures
GN Bureau | July 31, 2020
Senior BJP leader Kirit Somaiya has blasted BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner IS Chahal for taking credit for reducing the number of coronavirus infections in the in the slum sprawl of Dharavi, and wondered how could the authorities make boasts when 10,000-plus people have died.
“Does the municipal commissioner [MC] have no shame when he takes credit for reducing the number of deaths and issues a statement that 57% slum people have developed immunity? Did this happen because the MC or the Maharashtra government went there to give them injections and does he or the state government have any idea how people have suffered running around hospitals, paying inflated bills, spending their entire life savings for treatment of virus, loss of family members and their breadwinners?” he asked. He was speaking with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the third webinar in the Visionary Talk series organized by the public policy platform.
Watch the videos of the Visionary Talks series here: http://www.governancenow.com/visionary-talks-series
“After destroying so many families it had to stop at some point and when the body develops immunity, cases have to come down. So where is the need for a commissioner?” he added.
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Accusing the BMC of suppressing the true picture of the pandemic spread, Somaiya said they do not want to reveal the actual figures and that the BMC’s own sero survey says that 57% people developed immunity, which means people did have Covid-19 and have survived it. “More than 8,000 deaths have taken place due to coronavirus but the real figures are more than 12,000, because this government is hiding the actual figures. Over 72% deaths have taken place in the age group of 25-55 year and only 22% senior citizens have died – not 70-80% as claimed by the government. He also added that deaths of police constables could have been prevented.”
He said that the state’s Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine mismanaged its pre- lockdown planning which created problems. When the entire world was aware of pandemic in January, but the BKC Covid Care Centre was started only in June. Somaiya said that Maharashtra had more migrant workers from Marathwada and Konkan regions than from north India and due to the state government’s mismanagement the virus was now spreading into the interiors of Maharashtra.
Asked if he feels victimized given his current position in party, the former parliamentarian said, “There are ups and own in politics. Sometimes you have to sacrifice for the party and sometimes you also have to bear the brunt of politics, but you have to remain committed to your party, principles and country.”
As for speculation of being made a scapegoat in party politics he said, “Many people close to me and my well wishers feel that I have been wronged but I have never spoken a word against the party discipline, never compromised, nor can anyone raise a finger and prove any corruption on criminality on my part. It may have been my personal loss but nobody can point any corruption on my part.
“I can confidently say that I proved their corruption and showed them the mirror,” he added, referring to the MVA government. Somaiya added that under the Modi government at the centre, if Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP returns as chief minister and takes Maharashtra forward towards prosperity, he will not feel victimized.
Responding to a question on him being sidelined by the party and some party leaders saying that if someone is fighting for the party without a position why give him power, he said it was because of his party that he has received immense respect and power. “The party works as a team and sometimes it wants to bring in a new team and wants to push forward a certain person. One has to acknowledge and accept it,” he said.
He cited the examples of his meeting earlier this week with the chairman of the human rights commission, who immediately took cognizance of his plaint on infection at Mankhud Children’s Home and has called for an urgent hearing with the state government and the BMC. He also said that at the peak of the pandemic, when people were struggling to get an ambulance, the Bombay High Court took cognizance of his petition that the state government must take immediate action. He credited this impact to the party which has empowered him to work for the larger good of society.
To the question if it was his loyalty towards his party that he chose to keep quiet about the financial irregularities involving Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa when he had exposed many other scams like the Adarsh Society irregularities, demat scam and Maharashtra Sadan scam which involved rival parties, he said the party takes care of its work different ways. “Right now Devendra Fadnavis has asked me to work around the coronavirus situation and I am working to find solutions to various problems surrounding the related issues. During 2009-14 there were many corruption cases, we wanted to stop that and in 2014, prime minister Narendra Modi started a movement against corruption,” he said.
On being asked if chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s lack of administrative experience or his indecisiveness led to the chaotic situation, Somaiya said that because his party could not form government, the tripartite of MVA came together for power sharing and has been running in different directions – not able to pay attention to the pandemic. He accused the government of holding 14 confidential meetings with the agenda of not encroaching into each other’s departments – and not on dealing with the coronavirus spread.
“The government is denying Covid deaths because it will have to pay Rs 50 lakh insurance. There are 200 contract doctors in BMC hospitals but they have come out with rules that only permanent doctors of BMC will get salaries and therefore have deducted salaries of these contract doctors. Devendra Fadnavis would have never stopped so low,” he said.
Asked if the economic stimulus by the central government to bring economy back on track came a bit late in the day, he said that the virus spread would definitely reduce before the year-end and more effective medical interventions too would be available within two-three months which will improve recovery numbers. At present the priority of the central government is to feed people.
“Like never before, India’s young people are speaking about GDP which will pick up post 2021,” said Somaiya as he added, “Post Diwali and 2021 onwards the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ package will support entrepreneurship and turn the economy around. India’s young population is waiting for the corona to stop and this is our aim. We will provide incentives and packages to MSMEs,” he said.
Somaiya mentioned his mother and late BJP leader Hashu Advani as early influences in his life for his motivation and inspiration. “Every person has a goal in life, and mine was commitment towards society. In politics you have to have patience. Do not consider it a profession but take it as a commitment towards your country,” said Somaiya when asked as to how he reacts to his firebrand image.
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