Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Sunday that the Centre decided to step in to handle the coronavirus situation in Delhi, after Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s remark that the national Capital will have 5.5 lakh cases by July 31.

Shah told ANI in an interview that there was no doubt that the Aam Aadmi Party-led government in Delhi was doing its best to combat the pandemic. “The Centre stepped in to ensure better coordination in the efforts to combat the outbreak,” he said. “We held meetings where the Delhi government also offered their suggestions and spoke about their difficulties. Experts were also consulted. I met the mayors and also held an all-party meet. Based on all those suggestions, we took some steps.”

Shah said it was decided that all houses in the Capital’s containment zones will be surveyed by June 30. He said the Centre is sure this goal will be reached. The Union home minister also said that the Centre and the Delhi government have prepared a list of people with symptoms of the coronavirus and expanded mass testing.

Shah added that the Centre always keeps Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the loop, and said he also plans to speak to the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for better coordination of efforts in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

Shah also denied that there was any community transmission of the disease in Delhi, despite the high and rising number of cases. On Saturday, Delhi reported 2,948 new cases and 66 deaths, taking its total number to 80,188, with 2,558 casualties – the second-highest in the country. But Shah said that earlier, 4,500 samples were being tested every day, while the number has now been increased to 17,000, which would explain the increase in the number of cases.

“We have improved Covid-19 surveys in each ward,” he told ANI. “On June 14, there were 9,937 Covid-19 hospital beds in Delhi. About 30,000 beds will be available by June 30 and 8,000 beds are available in railway coaches, while 8,000 more are being added.” The Union home minister added that while the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have set up a hospital at the Radha Saomi Satsang Beas, the Defence Research and Development Organisation is setting up a dedicated hospital with 250 beds in the Intensive Care Unit.

‘Centre was pained by plight of migrant labourers’

Asked about the plight of migrant workers who had to travel home on foot to different parts of the country because of the lack of transportation, Shah said the Centre was pained by such saddening incidents. “Some saddening incidents happened...when people lost patience and started travelling on foot, we were also pained by it,” he said. “The prime minister told all chief ministers to run buses to ferry migrants travelling on foot to nearest railway stations. Till now, 1 crore 20 lakh people have been ferried across the nation.”

The Centre, after much political outrage, started operating “Shramik Special” trains to ferry migrant workers home from May 1. However, many labourers continued to walk home, while the Centre and states engaged in political mudslinging over train schedules and frequency.

But Shah on Sunday dismissed the politics over the matter. “Some political statements might have been made, but there has been no impact on decision-making,” he said.

Shah attacks Rahul Gandhi

On the twin challenges of countering the Chinese threat in the aftermath of the violent clash in Ladakh, and the coronavirus pandemic, Shah said: “I want to assure the people of India that we will win both the battles under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.” However, he added that he wanted to speak only about the Delhi crisis at present.

Shah criticised Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his attack on the government over its handling of the Ladakh crisis, accusing him of doing “shallow-minded politics”. On June 21, Gandhi had called Narendra Modi “Surrender Modi”. “It is a matter of self-introspection for him and Congress that his hashtag is being taken forward by Pakistan and China,” Shah said on Sunday in response.

The Union home minister said the government was ready for a debate on the matter in Parliament. “But at a time our jawans are fighting it out at the border and the government has taken a tough stand, we should not be giving out statement that favour China and Pakistan,” Shah said.