Shekhar Gupta’s online publication, ThePrint, on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, published an interview with Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel.
In the interview, Baghel claimed, “During the first wave, we had sealed the borders early so we managed to contain the spread. But as far as the second wave is concerned, the Centre did not issue an alert to the states. They knew about it but they did not issue any alerts.”
However, according to a report dated January 7, 2021, published in ThePrint itself, the Central Government asked four states – Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh to maintain a “strict vigil” and take steps in order to curb a COVID-19 surge in their respective states.
According to the report, in January, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to these states including Chhattisgarh in order to draw their attention “to the low and declining testing rates in the states, stating that any laxity at this crucial junction may squander the results of our collective actions in containing the transmission.”
“It is important to ensure that there is no complacency in the collective efforts in containment and management of COVID-19,” the health secretary told states including Chhattisgarh in January.
In his interview with ThePrint, Baghel blames the migrant workers coming in from the politically-allied neighboring Maharashtra for the recent spike in Chhattisgarh’s COVID-19 cases. It is of note that both Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh were cautioned and asked to maintain “a strict vigil” in order to curb COVID-19 back in January itself.
“The second issue about the second wave is that from the district of Rajnandgaon, Maharashtra starts through Nagpur. We have a migratory population there and people keep going and coming. Several families have temporary homes in Nagpur and they work there and people keep coming and going back,” he said, without receiving any sort of journalistic pushback.
No stranger to gaslighting
The Chhattisgarh Government is no stranger to gaslighting or passing the buck when it comes to dealing with the pandemic. The Bhupesh Baghel-led government has also engaged in pushing vaccine hesitancy narratives, which have been completely disproven in hindsight.
In February 2021, Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo said he does not support the use of Covaxin, one of the two vaccines which were approved for emergency use then, in Chhattisgarh. Chief Minister Baghel, too, had cast aspersions on the safety of the Covaxin and indulged in fear-mongering. Just yesterday, an ICMR study declared Covaxin to be effective even against COVID-19 variants.
It is imperative to note that when Chhattisgarh was gripped in the second wave of coronavirus infection, Baghel was busy in Assam, campaigning for Congress and predicting his party’s victory. As of now, there are over 5.88 lakh total coronavirus cases in Chhattisgarh, of which 1.22 lakh are active cases. The state has announced a complete lockdown in all 28 districts from Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the journalists at ThePrint did not seek clarification for any of the above issues from Bhupesh Baghel himself in the course of their interview. Hopefully, in their next interview maybe CM Baghel will finally be challenged with some actually tough and critical questions.