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Silence for 7 months, then multiple letters after Covid second wave hit: Maha CM’s communication with PM revealed by RTI

After the letter in August, no further communication was initiated from CM’s office. Later, in April 2021, CM talked about ramping up testing and vaccination in the state. He sought more vaccine doses from the centre and thanked the centre for lowering the age limit for vaccination.

Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra has failed to step down from the top contributor position for new Covid-19 cases for a long time. While the Maharashtra government was struggling to manage Covid-19 and reported a higher number of new cases than any other state, CM Uddhav Thackeray has not approached the PM for any support for seven months, an RTI query has revealed.

In an RTI filed by RTI activist Vivek Pandey, it was revealed that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra wrote a letter to PM in the last week of August 2020 and did not communicate with him until the first week of April 2021. By that time, the state was under the immense pressure of the second wave already. In between, it was the Central Government that had approached the Maharashtra Government in March 2021 to be on high alert as the state was on the brick of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

What did Pandey ask in his application?

In his application, Pandey asked the government to provide an answer to two queries.

  1. He asked for soft or hard copies of official communication between the CM of Maharashtra to Union Health Ministry seeking help for the fight against Covid-19 between July 2020 and April 2021.
  2. He asked for soft or hard copies of letters sent by the CM of Maharashtra to the PM of India seeking help for the fight against Covid-19 between July 2020 to April 2021.

The Maharashtra government did not provide any soft or hard copies in reply to the first query about CM’s communication with Union Health Ministry. It is unclear from their reply if they had approached the Health Ministry for any support.

What did CM write in his letters to PM?

In the official communication between CM Thackeray and PM Modi, CM had asked for allocation of funds for increasing testing in the state. He said that the state had been aggressively testing for Covid-19 across 151 laboratories, and ICMR had been providing kits and consumables to the state. However, those would not be provided from September 2020 as per the circular issued by the Central Governemnt and asked to continue the support to the state.

CM asking Union Government to continue supply of kits and consumables in letter dated August 26, 2020

Silence for 7 months, then a barrage of letters after April 2021

After the letter in August, no further communication was initiated from CM’s office. Later, in April 2021, CM talked about ramping up testing and vaccination in the state. He sought more vaccine doses from the centre and thanked the centre for lowering the age limit for vaccination. He further requested the Central Government to consider lowering the age limit to 25 so that more citizens could get the vaccine shot.

CM asking to reduce age limit to 25 for getting vaccination in letter dated April 5, 2021

In the official communication on April 22, 2021, CM talked about the availability of Remdesivir injection and alleged the state was not getting the allotted quota of the medicine. He had requested the PM to ensure the state gets the injection so that lives could be saved.

CM asking PM to provide the allotted Remdesivir injections to the state in letter dated April 22, 2021

On April 30, 2021, he wrote to the PM he suggested to allow the states to have their own Covid-19 vaccination platforms where citizens could register as opening slots for the 18-45 age group would put immense pressure on Cowin servers. He also asked PM to allow the states to procure the vaccine directly from the other manufacturers.

CM asking PM to allow states to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers in letter dated April 30, 2021

Central Government’s communication with states for Covid-19 second wave

As per reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had warned the states about the second wave of Covid-19 during six meetings. In his interactions with chief ministers, PM Modi had raised the issue of rising infections in certain parts of the country. The Prime Minister had also asked them to take measures to handle the surge, the BJP said.

When the infections started soaring again around March, heralding the onslaught of the second wave, at PM Modi’s meetings with various Chief Ministers on March 17, he had alerted them about a fresh spike in infections and had asked them to take urgent steps before it was too late.

In fact, PM Modi held six interactions with chief ministers, starting from September 23 last year till April 23 this year, to monitor the situations in the country. During such meetings, PM Modi had constantly asked Chief Ministers to focus on 60 districts with a high burden of cases and increase testing substantially.

Had blamed centre after second wave hit

It can be noted here that while CM Thackeray maintained silence over Covid preparedness, and the through the time when the Centre’s warnings of a second wave, he has sent multiple letters in April, highlighting several issues. It was the time when Maharashtra’s covid situation had worsened and the state was seeing constantly increasing Covid caseload, being India’s worst affected state.

In September 2020, the Maha government had complained that they are not getting PPEs and other medical supplies from the centre. Health minister Rajesh Tope had also stated that the Centre’s help is needed to deal with the rising caseloads in the state. PM Modi had held a special meeting with CMs of the states with biggest caseloads on September 23. Maharashtra was included.

Maharashtra government and several party leaders have also been vocal about the alleged ‘lack of support’ from the centre. As the second wave raged in Maharashtra in April, CM Uddhav Thackeray had tried to blame PM Modi again, claiming that he could not get through to PM because the latter was busy campaigning in West Bengal.

Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi had tweeted, “We will wait, Hon. PM for your election campaigning and rallies to conclude for an urgent intervention to save lives. But those who need remdesivir and Oxygen may not have the luxury of time. PS. EPIDEMIC IS AN EMERGENCY NOT THE ELECTION.”

Sena’s attempt to create a political drama was criticised by union minister Piyush Goyal, who had clarified that the centre is coordinating with state governments on a daily basis and Maharashtra has been provided the highest quantity of oxygen.

It is interesting to note that while Uddhav Thackeray and his government kept blaming the centre over the alleged lack of support, even going to the extent of petty political gimmicks and Twitter allegations, the CM had been maintaining no communication with the PM’s office all these months, right upto April 2021 when Covid’s second wave came back with a vengeance.

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