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Kumbh Mela 2021: Won’t spare the guilty, says Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat on fake Covid tests during Kumbh Mela | India News

Tirath Singh Rawat took over as the chief minister of Uttarakhand on March 10, replacing Trivendra Singh Rawat about a year ahead of the assembly elections in the state. A few days after assuming office, he contracted Covid. As he resumed work, the second wave of the Covid pandemic hit the country and his government was under fire for organizing the Kumbh Mela. The chief minister did not help his cause by making some controversial statements. In an interview with the, the chief minister spoke on various issues and also expressed confidence about leading the BJP to victory in the upcoming assembly elections.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: According to reports, about 1 lakh fake tests were conducted by a private agency during the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar earlier this year. What is your government doing in the matter?
A: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Union health ministry have initiated a probe into the issue. Cognisance would be taken against the guilty. Our government believes in zero tolerance for corruption. Besides, we have also asked the senior officials in Haridwar to submit a detailed report within a week. We will not spare any guilty person.
Q: The Uttarakhand government is being accused of mismanaging the situation arising out of Covid pandemic during the second wave?
A: Firstly, Uttarakhand handled the situation far better than other states such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and West Bengal. No district or town of the state ranked high among the worst-affected ones. There were some shortcomings, I agree. But after all we should consider the fact, and as you yourself said, that it was a pandemic which the world witnessed for the first time in 100 years.
Q: During the Kumbh Mela a number of people, including sadhus, died because of Covid. The event is also being blamed for the spread of the virus to other parts of the country. Was it urgent to hold the religious event?
A: Let me set the record straight. Kumbh is a matter of our belief. It comes every 12 years. The dates are fixed much in advance. Moreover, when the Kumbh Mela started, the second wave of Covid had not yet arrived nor was it expected much. And, most important, when Covid second wave was at its peak in Uttarakhand, Haridwar was in the fourth or fifth spot among the worst-affected districts of the state. I will repeat that the situation in other states such as Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala and Delhi was far worse than in Uttarakhand. We had stopped the entry of people from these states without a negative RT-PCR report. Hence, the Lutyens media unnecessarily blamed the Kumbh Mela, which is a matter of faith for the Hindus, and wrongly targetted the Uttarakhand government for the spread of Covid. It was a motivated campaign against us.
Q: From ‘ripped jeans’ to ‘America enslaved India’, your recent remarks have drawn sharp reactions from several quarters. How do you explain these statements?
A: My statements were twisted to give a different meaning. On the girls wearing ripped jeans issue, I meant to say how time has changed. I cited my personal experiences. I said when I was a student and when my trousers or jeans would get torn, I would get a talla (patch) on it. We could not dare to go to school or college in torn jeans. We would be scolded by our teachers. But now people buy torn jeans for Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000. Or, if they don’t get torn jeans, they cut it with scissors at home. I never criticised those wearing torn jeans. I was just highlighting the change of time.
On Muslims producing 20 children, I meant to say that it would have been easier for the government to handle Covid pandemic and the situation arising out of it if the population would have been lesser. Smaller families are always better.
As far as my statement on the US is concerned, what I meant was that the Modi model is popular in that country and the entire West, even though the Britishers ruled over India for about two centuries.
Q: You are completing 100 days in office on June 18. What are your achievements?
A: The first decision I took after assuming office on March 10 was to withdraw cases against more than 4,500 people who were accused of violating Covid norms during last year’s lockdown. These people were helping the poor and the needy by distributing free blankets, food and the likes throughout the day and night during the Corona curfew period.
I ordered scrapping of development authorities. In the hills, there is scarcity of land. People can either build houses or leave spaces for roads. There was corruption in the development authorities in the name of approving house maps, so I abolished them. It was a long-pending demand of the people who were feeling harassed. The common man is very happy with this decision.
The priests were unhappy with the formation of Devasthan (temple) Board. I said we will reconsider it.
I organised ‘chaupals’ in rural areas to hear people’s grievances and solved the issues on the spot.
During the Covid pandemic, we increased the number of hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, oxygen cylinders by nine times. Uttarakhand saw a spike in Covid cases and death rate because serious patients from Delhi, NCR (National Capital Region) and western Uttar Pradesh (UP) districts such as Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor came down to the state for treatment. 60 per cent of Covid patients were from Uttarakhand, while the remaining 40 per cent were from outside the state.
We set up three large oxygen plants – one each in Rudrapur, Roorkee and Dehradun. We provided oxygen to UP and Haryana and also to Delhi on the request of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. We have established oxygen plants in all the district hospitals and down to the primary health centres (PHCs) in the blocks.
I am grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji for the setting up of two hospitals of 500 beds each with the help of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation).
We set up monitoring committees for Covid testing in each and every household. We are encouraging people to get vaccinated and are also sending PPE kits, medicines and food to the Covid patients. We increased ration from seven-and-a-half kgs to 20 kgs. We introduced the distribution of 2 kg of sugar during the pandemic.
Uttarakhand was the first state to introduce a scheme for orphaned children. Unlike several other states, our Vatsalya Yojana covers children who have lost any one parent and the other is not earning. Our scheme also covers those who died because of any other ailment. By adding these provisions, the number of beneficiaries under this scheme shot up to 552. Otherwise, strictly speaking, only 38 minors would have been entitled to get the benefits under the scheme.
Q: What are the other tasks which you would like to accomplish before next year’s assembly election?
A: With the blessings of Modi ji, all-round development has taken place in the state in the last four years. Uttarakhand is very close to his heart and is at the centre of his scheme of things. The state has got new roads due to the efforts of (road, transport and highways minister) Nitin Gadkariji. Earlier, Rishikesh to Badrinath would take 12-13 hours. Now the same distance can be covered in seven-eight hours. Similarly, it used to take seven hours to travel from Dehradun to Uttarkashi. Now it takes just four hours.
Earlier, we would take the children to Dehradun to show them trains. Now, railway line is reaching Badrinath and Karnprayag. It will help boost tourism.
The development of ‘char dham’ (four pilgrimages) is PM Modi’s dream project. Trains will also run in all the four dhams – Dehradun to Gangotri and Yamunotri in Uttarkashi and Rishikesh to Karnprayag on the Badrinath route. Rishikesh to Karnprayag route would be complete by 2024.
Q: How confident are you of the BJP winning the 2022 Uttarakhand assembly election?
A: Several projects have materialised in the last four years and others are in the pipeline. They include road and rail projects, potable water in each house and the Ujjwala scheme. We have strengthened the education system by opening schools in remote areas and the health sector by sending doctors to far-flung areas. The people, particularly the women, have immense trust in Modi ji. All these factors will lead to investment in the state.
Q: There are several factions in Uttarakhand BJP. How much will infighting harm the chances of the party in the assembly election?
A: There is no faction now. All leaders and party workers are working together under the leadership of Modi ji and Amit Shah ji.

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