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Notify COVID-19 pandemic as natural disaster: Maharashtra CM writes to PM

Workers rest on hand carts outside closed shops in Mumbai on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Rajanish Kakade

As Maharashtra stares at a full-blown medical crisis amid ever-surging COVID-19 cases and fatalities, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has written to the Prime Minister urging him to declare the pandemic a natural disaster and give economic relief to those most affected.

Given the acute shortage of oxygen, Mr. Thackeray, in his letter on Thursday, appealed to the Centre to take action under the National Disaster Management Act to supply vital oxygen by air.

Relief measures

In his letter, Mr. Thackeray detailed the relief measures that could be accorded to Maharashtra’s citizens which include a three-month extension of the timeline for filing GST returns for small and medium taxpayers.

“The pandemic may be notified as a natural calamity under the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF). Accordingly, the State may be allowed to pay relief of ₹100 per adult per day and ₹60 per child per day for all the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority House Hold (PHH) family members whose names are included in the AAA and PHH ration cards,” reads the letter.

Mr. Thackeray has urged the Centre to release the first instalment of the Centre’s share of SDRF to help the State tide over the financial crisis arising due to the pandemic.

The letter has also asked for banks to defer instalment payments from small business owners and producers that will be due in the first quarter of this financial year.

The Chief Minister said that given the large number of tests being conducted and the massive case surge, Maharashtra’s active cases were expected to touch 11.9 lakh by April 30.

“In contrast, last year in September, there were 10.5 lakh active patients in the whole country. With more than six lakh active patients in the State today, the shortage of oxygen for medical purposes is a matter of grave concern,” he said.

The State needed more than 1,200 metric tonnes of oxygen. This could soar to 2,000 metric tonnes per day by the month end, he wrote.

“While the Centre has approved taking oxygen from steel projects in the eastern and southern parts of the country, we are providing oxygen from local areas as well as nearby places. However, to save time, urgent action needs to be taken under the National Disaster Management Act to divert this oxygen by other means, mainly by air,” the Chief Minister said.

While expressing gratitude for the Centre’s decision to suspend export of Remdesivir, the Chief Minister said exporters of these drugs be given permanent licences under Section 92 of the Indian Patent Act, 1970 so that they can sell it in the local market.

Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the supply was expected to normalise by April 21.

“Presently, we are able to secure 1400 MT oxygen from within the State and by negotiating some supply from neighbouring States. But with the demand expected to soar in the wake of rising cases, we will have to cope for the next five-six days and hospitals will have to use the drug in a rational way. After April 21, we can expect increased supply of Remdesivir,” he said.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 9:55:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/notify-covid-19-pandemic-as-natural-disaster-maharashtra-cm-writes-to-pm/article34330318.ece

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