Other States

‘Pune lockdown an attempt to mask MVA’s failures’

Siddharth Shirole  

A day after a major administrative reshuffle saw Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad being transferred, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Siddharth Shirole said the imposition of the 10-day lockdown in Pune district was an attempt to disguise the failures of the State government, and was unfair to the citizens of a city limping back to normalcy.

Mr. Shirole, the legislator from Shivajinagar, said Mr. Gaikwad, a known opponent of the lockdown, was merely made a political scapegoat. The 10-day lockdown comes into effect from midnight of July 13.

Stating that the city’s health infrastructure should always be ahead of the graph of rising cases, Mr. Shirole said it was unfathomable how a 10-day lockdown could help in bringing the city’s deplorable medical infrastructure up to snuff. He also alleged that the State government had been misleading people with projections and the state of preparedness with statistics that were miles away from reality.

“The lockdown has now become a compulsion, but could have easily been prevented with proactive action on part of the State government. Given the drastic surge in cases in the past fortnight, the State authorities should have foreseen and accordingly ramped up their infrastructure. They must think ahead to 2021 in terms of preparation for combating the crisis, and not merely the next two months,” Mr. Shirole said.

With the district witnessing an average surge of 1,400 cases daily (of which 1,000-odd are from Pune city) since the beginning of July, hospitals in the city are packed to capacity.

“Last week, it took me six hours to obtain a bed for a 75-year-old woman who had tested COVID-19 positive. And even then, the woman, a resident of Aundh, finally got a bed at Bharti Hospital, at the other end of the city. I think it is time to give the public the true picture of the beds available in the city,” Mr. Shirole said, adding that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had neither visited the city personally nor had any review videoconference with elected representatives.

Given that Pune’s mortality and infection growth rates were among the highest in the country, the BJP leader expressed surprise that the State had yet to set up a jumbo 10,000-bed COVID-19 treatment centre.

“Even after more than 100 days following the first lockdown in March, the State leadership has failed woefully in preparing Pune for this spike in cases, forecast by most epidemiology studies and models. This, despite the fact that I had been repeatedly cautioning State authorities and ministers to boost Pune’s medical infrastructure,” Mr. Shirole said.

Shivajinagar is one of the worst-afflicted areas in Pune, with over 1,000 active cases and 3,000 reported cases till date.

Ramesh Iyer, Pune city Congress general secretary and party spokesperson, urged the State government to ensure that facilities like the private COVID-19 hospital set up by Wipro, are utilised as soon as possible.

“With the monsoon in earnest, cases will rise dramatically. The State health authorities must arrange for staff in facilities like Wipro’s hospital in Hinjewadi, which is gathering dust. To cope with the shortage of doctors, final-year MBBS students should be assigned the responsibility of administering preliminary treatment of patients,” Mr. Iyer said.

Meanwhile, a number of leaders and outfits across the political spectrum opposed both the lockdown and the sudden transfer of Mr. Gaikwad, who had served as the city’s Commissioner for barely six months.

Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) Commissioner Vikram Kumar has been appointed in Mr. Gaikwad’s stead as the new PMC Commissioner.

Echoing Mr. Shirole, senior BJP leader and Pune MP Girish Bapat, too, spoke of Mr. Gaikwad being made the “fall guy to mask the failures of the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi government” to check the spread of the contagion in Pune merely because he had been a vocal opponent of the lockdown.

“Why was the previous PMC Commissioner, who has been working hard, being shunted out in the midst of the pandemic? The State government should do a rethink on the lockdown as it will impose massive strain on those struggling to make ends meet,” Rahul Dambale of the Republican Yuva Morcha said.

Likewise, Santosh Shinde of the Sambhaji Brigade, questioned as to what purpose had been served by the transfer of an officer who was already well-set in managing the problems facing the civic body.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 8:58:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/pune-lockdown-an-attempt-to-mask-mvas-failures/article32061333.ece

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