C. Vijayabaskar, AIADMK’s candidate for the Viralimalai constituency, led the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic as Health Minister. A qualified doctor, he has been projecting his performance during what he calls a trying time for the people, to solicit votes for the upcoming Assembly election. With a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the State, he discusses preparatory measures under way to contain it and future prospects for the constituency. Edited excerpts:
A few districts are recording a steep rise in COVID-19 cases. What plans have been drawn up to contain it? Will there be another lockdown?
We are looking to curb the transmission from the primary sources. Measures to avoid overcrowding, including the closure of schools and colleges, are being taken. Public cooperation is essential to control the spread of the infection. A lockdown, as was done last year, is not being considered as of now.
The public has become lax with following COVID-19 protocols, especially wearing of masks. What is being done to ensure public safety, especially during the election season?
Yes, people have become relaxed, which is a major cause of worry. All candidates and organisers need to insist on wearing masks during the campaign. When I go, we make sure that people are wearing masks at every stop. I insist on people taking the vaccine. There was apprehension among the people when we began the roll-out in January. I took Covaxin and had no side-effects, not even a slight fever. We need to trust the medical experts and protect ourselves from the infection.
The government was criticised for reopening schools and colleges, especially since clusters have emerged in some institutions. What do you have to say?
The schools were opened only for students of Classes 9 to 12. Now, colleges and schools have been asked to revert to online classes for the foreseeable future. Compared to other countries and even our neighbouring States, we are well-equipped with all facilities to contain the spread of COVID-19. Our healthcare workers have become experts and can even offer training to others.
You have been projecting your performance as Health Minister to seek votes during your campaign. The youth here have also been demanding job opportunities. Why have these not been done in the last 10 years?
I focused on providing basic necessities first as this used to be a reserved constituency earlier. In 10 years, water supply under the Cauvery Combined Drinking Water Supply Scheme, good quality roads and street lights, among other amenities, have been provided. Amma Mini Clinics have been set up in several parts.
The Chief Minister inaugurated an ITC Factory, where 3,700 jobs have been provided. Construction of a SIPCOT zone is under way at Malampatti and three MoUs have been signed with multinational companies for the same.
Within a short period, 15,000 job opportunities would be generated for the people of Viralimalai. Moreover, the first phase of the Cauvery-Gundar river link begins here in Viralimalai. Soon, we will be able to shed the tag of being a drought-prone area.