Sikkim ex-CM Pawan Kumar Chamling submitting a memorandum to governor Ganga Prasad

Gangtok: Former chief minister and current leader of Opposition Pawan Kumar Chamling has slammed the state government of doing cheap work to counter the pandemic and creating a scenario of fear with a large number of people being brought to the state without proper screening.

Chamling was speaking to the media at Sikkim Democratic Front party office on Thursday, after submitting a memorandum to governor Ganga Prasad earlier in the day.

Earthquake and COVID 19 comparison, irrelevant

Chamling slammed chief minister Prem Singh Golay of running away from responsibilities in an attempt at seeking credit for all the work and doing politics during the pandemic.

The former CM asserted that there is no comparision between the earthquake of 2011 and COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

“Earthquake and pandemic are two separate scenarios and cannot be compared. It is not a nature calamity. He is merely running away from the responsibility. He has the mandate of the people, he has the state government, he must work instead of looking in the past. I am a former CM, but he is hiding his weakness. He must come to solution, there is no preparedness and the comparison with the how my government handled the Earthquake with the pandemic is completely irrelevant. In 2011, we went all out with house construction, relief and rehabilitation was carried out on time with medical aid being provided on an emergency basis. There was decentralization of power away from the chief minister and works were carried out smoothly,” he alleged

Government must go all out

Chamling said that the work carried out by the state government is “cheap work”. “There is a huge budget that has been allocated to the state to fight the pandemic by the Centre, while other States like Kerala are sanctioning their own budget, Sikkim has failed at framing such budget. Apart from the salaries to be paid to the government employees, rest of the budget must be facilitated to the people to fight the pandemic. These can be to procure medical equipment, labs, relief in the form rations to the people and facilitating those stranded outside the state. There are also the presence of calamity or emergency funds which can be utilized by the state”.

Among the budgetary allocations, Chamling demanded Rs 1 crore as life insurance for COVID 19 frontline workers along with doubling of salary for the frontline workers including police, journalists, employees working in private companies, pharmaceutical companies and even health workers in Central Referral Hospital, Manipal.

With transition, virus could spread more

Chamling highlighted how there are over 1 crore people who could be in transition between states and Sikkim could also come in such transition when they are commuting back home.

“Most of our people are coming from red zones as are most of metropolitan cities. There could be more than 10,000 people coming to the state in the next 15 days. While, these people are not even being properly screened before they start their journey home, if they are cleared by their host state prior to their journey, chances of virus spread could be comparatively low”.

Chamling asserted that there are cases of people being forcefully evacuated while those in need being ignored.

Virus will spread in a week, if no tests done

State’s health department has taken the decision to conduct test only after seven days of people’s arrival, to which the Namchi-Singhithang legislator claimed, “It is a growing threat to those in quarantine, as they could be infected or carriers with more chances of spreading. They are coming mostly from the red zones. Proper screening by the health officials at the borders is the need of the hour. The neighbouring districts of West Bengal bordering Sikkim have been declared as Red Alert Zone. With most people coming from Siliguri, there is an impending threat with people transiting, elsewhere, even the essential commodities, medical items, hardware materials and others being brought from these zones need to investigated and a proper disinfectant drive must be carried out and not merely on vehicles and drivers”.

Kota clear case of favouritism

In a sharp criticism against the 19 students brought to the state from Kota, Chamling claimed that favouritism was in play.

“We have nothing against the students brought back home, but the manner and the decision taken to facilitate only them with no prior information with others is a concern. It showcases how the government played pick and choose to facilitate only the well-off students while there are still six students who were lesser privileged have been left behind in Kota, Rajasthan. If the virus spreads in the state, then the state government is accountable”.

Devote train for Northeastern students

“Given the scenario, the students and others from many metropolitan cities can be brought collectively to the state along with other Northeastern states and its people. A special train can be facilitated as the population of our students is not as much to devote an entire train to the State. I can work on my experience and reach to help such people. But it is the responsibility of the government, if they fail then I will act upon the same. We are not trying to blame the government but we are hopeful more could be done,” stated Chamling.

He informed about how people are frantically calling authorities and families for aid to counter financial and other difficulties with a desire to come back home.

“The most of this bunch are students posting on social media platforms on their difficulties, we request that such persons and students undergoing courses be provided relief of Rs 300 per day or Rs 10,000 per month,” added Chamling

Quarantine centres must be in remote location

Amidst complaints of quarantine centres being in close proximity to residential areas and villages, Chamling suggested that such facilities must be relocated in remote or isolated locations.

“Quarantine facilities must be in remote locations away from residential or public areas, but there has been growing concern with more and more quarantines being set up closer to human populace. There have been a lot of feedbacks on the same from the public as well and the government must look into the matter. The isolation centres look to be a grim possibility with logistics being hampered, while the hotels being used for quarantine are not the solution even as per the National and Health Directives and away from the policy devoted towards contamination zones. If they look upon these issues, people’s lives could be saved,” stated Chamling.

COVID-19 testing lab a compulsion

Chamling highlighted how despite the Union joint secretary supporting the state with a visit and scrutiny for the COVID-19 Testing lab, the state has failed to construct the same.

“More than 40 days have passed since the lockdown, the pandemic was upon us prior to that. Authorities have visited the state, yet the state government is in no rush to complete the lab. But without the lab being set up we are ushering in people coming from Red Zones. Across the world and the country as well, Sikkim is the only state without a devoted COVID 19 Testing Lab. We are at the bottom in this regard”.

On Truenat Machines, Chamling said how the device is merely for screening and the STNM hospital has only four of them.

“These are not as effective as other tests and could be used merely for screening and not testing the virus. The same was to be provided to the state as early as April 4, but Sikkim procured the same after 25 days. These machines need to be brought in more and they must be adequately distributed to PHSCs, health department must take the same as a concern,” he said.

Absence of Health and Economic Advisory Committee

Chamling slammed how the state has failed in its planning to counter the pandemic largely due to the absence of health and economic advisory committee in order to mitigate the ongoing and future challenges.

“The government of India has released the GST compensation to the state especially to enhance the budgetary provision to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 2 lakh people in the state have been directly affected or are unemployed by this lockdown. Commercial vehicles must be provided a relief of Rs 20,000, while Rs 10,000 for light motor vehicles must be assured to the owners. Taxi drivers must be provided Rs 10,000 per month as relief.”

“The state has turned a blind eye against its most profitable sector tourism and other ancillary services such as transportation and hotel and hospitality, the same was enriched during the 25 years of my governance. The same may equate to over 2 lakh people losing their livelihood. Drivers and the working class must be facilitated. Those working in private and different professions must be aided. Each of them must be facilitated with a minimum of Rs 10,000 as compensation,” he regretted.

Loans must be waived off

“All loans obtained by the people from any National Banks, State Bank of Sikkim, SIDICO, SABCCO and other financial institution are also to be given a moratorium till the stability of the economy is achieved. All interests accrued on such loans to be waived off along with loans obtained under the State Government Policies and programmes, such as CM’s Self Employment Schemes, Education loan, and Chief Minister’s Start Up Scheme,” suggested Chamling.

Pandemic will create famine and depression

“The Pandemic could create a chain reaction, with famine and depression to follow, both economically and mentally. This will affect our society widely and there is some saving in need from the government. Panchayats and Line Departments are being ignored on distribution of relief, and party workers are being encouraged, while they are distributing reliefs to gain some credit or to favour their own and not the people at large”.

The former CM also raised concerns on the disposal of PPEs. Questioning the process adopted by the state government for disposal of the PPEs and masks, the former state chief minister said, “These masks need to be disposed properly.”

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