New Delhi: Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale has advocated for a further extension of the lockdown to rain in the highly contagious coronavirus in the country.
In an exclusive interview with IANS, the Union Minister expressed concern over the issue of thousands of migrants walking home without food, money and shelter. He said if enough food was available to them they would not have taken this arduous journey. At the same time he termed the migrant workers' decision to walk home wrong.
President of the Republican Party of India, Athawale, said the Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra has failed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the state as the cases are rising exponentially. He also attacked Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for criticizing the government at a time when all should come together to defeat this virus.
He said, "If the Narendra Modi government would not have taken a timely decision to enforce lockdown, the cases would have gone in lakhs and many more would have died. The US did not use lockdown as a measure to control the spread of the coronavirus, and see the result. Sonia Gandhi's statement that India did not plan before going into the lockdown is totally wrong."
He further said, "I feel that lockdown should be extended up to May 30 at least in red zones. If the virus is still not tamed, the lockdown should be further extended beyond May 30 as well. At the same time, in green zones the economic activities must start. So far more than 25 thousand small scale industries have started functioning."
Athawale attributed the rising coronavirus cases in the country to the violation of lockdown. He said the cases are rising due to non adherence to social distancing norms at places like mandis and vegetable markets where huge crowds gather. People must not flout social distancing rules, he said.
On the question of migrants walking home, Athawale said, "I think the decision of the migrants to go on foot with small children is wrong. If enough food was available, they would not have taken a long walk home. I appeal to migrants to go to the nearest railway station where the administration will arrange for their journey."
"They should not have been charged. How will they pay when there is no money to buy food. I feel the state governments also should take considerate view of the plight of the migrant labourers," Athawale added.
He raised questions over the the ability of the Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra to control the spread of the virus. He said the Maharashtra government tried but failed to check the spread of the coronavirus. This is the failure of the government, he said.
Athawale also targeted Uddhav Thackeray over the issue of migrant labourers. He said, "If the Maha government had made arrangements for their food, medicine, ration, then the migrants would not have moved out of where ever they were staying put."
He said the Maharashtra government wants to restart the Mumbai local trains. "If this happens, there will be no social distancing in trains and the cases will rise manifold in Mumbai," Athawale said.
"Aap mat rona, jald jayega corona" (Don't despair, corona will go away soon), said the poet in Athawale at the end of the conversation.
Athawale had hit the headlines in February when he gave the slogan: "Go corona go."
Now he recited another poem, this time for migrant workers:
"Koi bhi mat aaeye road par,
Main vinti karata hun haath jod kar,
Ham sabhi hain gambhir mod par,
kyon aa rahe ho aap road par,
Koi bhi aap mat rona,
Kyonki jald jayega yahan se corona".
The poem can be roughly translated as:
None of you come on the road,
I appeal to you with my folded hands,
We all are at a serious juncture,
Why do you want to come on the road,
Don't despair, Corona will soon go away.