Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Thursday wondered what the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, or PM CARES fund, was to be used for if it was not for use by states to combat the coronavirus, The Hindu reported. Raut made the remark during a Rajya Sabha discussion on the coronavirus.

Raut also attacked Bharatiya Janata Party MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe for criticising the Maharashtra government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. He said the state had successfully arrested the spread of the virus in Dharavi slum in Mumbai. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had in July praised the state’s efforts in containing the pandemic in Asia’s largest slum. Raut claimed Maharashtra has followed the protocol set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight the coronavirus.

He said that the Centre has stopped funds for personal protective equipment kits, masks and other materials from September 1. “It will cost Maharashtra government Rs 50 crore a day,” Raut claimed. “What is the PM CARES fund for if not for States?” he asked.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged that the states were being treated unfairly and being deprived of funds. She added that due to the focus on the coronavirus, over 10 lakh children have missed immunisation.

Politics over banging thaalis, lighting diyas

Aam Aadmi Party legislator Sanjay Singh called the Centre’s “taali, thaali” initiative foolish, leading to protests from the BJP MPs in the House. Singh said that if even a single person could be cured of coronavirus by banging thaalis and lighting diyas, it could be done in Parliament too.

BJP MP Sudhanshu Trivedi attacked the Opposition for questioning the government’s symbolic measures against Covid-19, drawing parallels with Mahatma Gandhi spinning the charkha during the freedom struggle. “Many of our friends have a problem with lighting of diyas and banging thaalis,” he said. “They don’t know history. Was spinning a charkha going to lead to the British leaving? It was a symbol chosen by Gandhiji.”

Trivedi also defended the government’s decision to impose a nationwide lockdown at four hours’ notice, claiming that there would have been huge crowds at railway stations and bus stops if the lockdown had been announced with, for instance, a two-day notice. He said that unlike the Opposition-ruled states of Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, which has a population comparable to Brazil’s, the Centre has done a better job at handling the pandemic.

‘Centre should plan in advance for vaccination’: Ghulam Nabi Azad

But Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the Centre should have acted quicker. “The government lost the golden months in addressing this pandemic,” he said. “We should have been alert as it was in our neighbourhood that a mysterious pneumonia was being seen in December 2019.” Azad said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had warned that a “tsunami” was about to hit the country.

Azad also asked the government to formulate a vaccine strategy well in advance. He said India must encourage domestic manufacturers of vaccines. “And we must be ready for the last-mile delivery of the vaccine; it should not be like the lockdown,” the Congress leader said. “We can’t waste time to formulate vaccination strategy later.”

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP M Thambidurai said there needs to be coordination between the Centre and states to meet the challenges brought forth by the pandemic. He also asked the Centre to allot Rs 9,000 crore to Tamil Nadu to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha are being convened for just four hours each day, with physical distancing and sanitisation measures. While the Rajya Sabha functions in the morning, Lok Sabha proceedings are held in the afternoon.

India’s coronavirus count crossed the 51-lakh mark on Thursday and rose to 51,18,254, with 97,894 new cases. The toll jumped by 1,132 to 83,198. As many as 40,25,080 people have recovered from the infection so far, while the active case count crosses the 10-lakh mark.

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