New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi Thursday increased by four times the fine for not wearing masks — to Rs 2,000 from Rs 500. The decision came a day after Delhi recorded 131 Covid deaths, the highest ever in a day so far.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to announce the decision, saying he had met the Lieutenant Governor to brief him about the coronavirus situation in Delhi. Both of them, Kejriwal said, agreed that a higher fine was needed to deter people from shunning masks, which are believed to be among the most important coronavirus-prevention measures.
Met Hon’ble LG. Briefed him about the corona situation in Delhi. We agreed that to create effective deterrent so that people don’t omit wearing masks, we need to increase fine from the present Rs 500 to Rs 2000.
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 19, 2020
The announcement came just minutes after the Delhi High Court, during a hearing, noted that the quantum of fine for not wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, another key preventive measure, did not appear to be serving as a deterrent among city residents. The high court came down heavily on the government with respect to the union territory’s Covid situation, asking why it waited till the court intervened to take steps such as reducing the number of people attending weddings to 50.
Kejriwal also chaired an all-party meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the Covid-19 situation in the national capital, where cases have been surging again.
Talking to mediapersons after the meeting, the CM said, “I told all parties at the meeting that it’s a difficult time for the people of Delhi when Covid cases are rising. We should set aside politics and allegations for a few days. This is the time to serve people.”
All the parties, he said, agreed that “this is the time for all of us to become one and serve the people of Delhi”. The CM also asked all political parties to spread the word among social organisations for the distribution of masks at public places in Delhi.
‘Will work with govt’
BJP state president Adesh Gupta, who attended the meeting, told ThePrint that the party will offer its support to the Delhi government. “The meeting was called a little too late in the day but better later than never,” he said. Gupta added that he had urged the Delhi CM to cooperate with MCD hospitals — Delhi civic agencies are led by the BJP — and provide more beds to the ones designated for Covid-19 treatment.
“Some even require oxygen cylinders while safai karamcharis haven’t received their salaries,” he said. At the meeting, the BJP also sought more anti-smoke towers instead of “putting up billboards advertising AAP at every red light”, Gupta added.
“I also expressed to the CM that Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) volunteers should be made to stand in markets to spread awareness among people not wearings masks since the positivity rate (share of positive diagnosis among total tests) is high here,” he said.
Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar Chaudhary, meanwhile, raised the issue of adequate testing. “Besides this, the Congress president also raised the issue of ban on gatherings for Chhath Puja at public places,” a senior government official who attended the meeting said.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, who attended the meeting, told the media that the number of daily RT-PCR tests — believed to be the gold standard for Covid testing — will be enhanced to 27,000 from 18,000 in Delhi.
The chief minister, he added, will be meeting market associations before any decision is taken about shutting down markets to check the spread of Covid-19.
Two Delhi government officials who attended the meeting said the participants were also informed that arrangements have been made for Delhi hospitals to get over 1,400 ICU beds — 663 at Delhi government facilities and 750 at those run by the central government.
District magistrates across Delhi, they added, have been directed to double the number of testing centres in their jurisdictions.