New Delhi: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has blamed the Modi government for the spurt in Covid-19 cases linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, saying it should have never allowed the Islamic organisation’s members to travel to states.
A congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group, held in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area last month was attended by thousands of people from within India and abroad. Before the authorities evacuated nearly 2,300 people from the Tablighi headquarters in the area and placed them under quarantine, hundreds of members, including those carrying Covid-19 infection, had spread across India.
The central government said last week that around 30 per cent of the total Covid-19 cases in the country were related to Tablighis.
“The government of India had the list of those (Tablighis) coming from abroad. Why did it let go of people who had gathered in Nizamuddin?” Congress leader Baghel told ThePrint in a Skype interview. “Why were they allowed to go to states? …The government of India knew there were foreigners right under its nose in Delhi. It should have stopped them.”
The central government gave a list of 107 Tablighis to the Chhattisgarh government, which managed to trace them and put them under quarantine, said Baghel. Only one of them tested positive, but he “is responsible for the spike in Covid cases in the state”, said Baghel.
The state has, however, managed to contain the spread. Out of 37 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Chhattisgarh, 32 have been discharged. There hasn’t been a single coronavirus-related death in Chhattisgarh, where 23 of the state’s districts have been classified as green zones and only one is a red zone.
Chhattisgarh has decided to keep its borders closed even after the national lockdown is lifted on 3 May, Baghel said.
“Even if there is not a single case in the state, we will keep the border sealed as long as there is a single Covid-positive case in the country,” the chief minister added.
As for the possibility of a further extension of the nationwide lockdown, which ends on 3 May, Baghel said the decision on how to ease restrictions should be left to the discretion of states.
‘Centre told Chhattisgarh-based firms not to donate to state’
Earlier this week, the chief minister wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting that the money deposited in the PM-CARES Fund by mining and industrial units from Chhattisgarh, under their corporate social responsibility (2 per cent of their average net profit in the preceding three years), be transferred to the state.
“These companies are not giving a paisa for the development of the area (where they are located)… There is NMDC…Balco (a Vedanta group company) is based in Korba, a red zone. It has given Rs 100 crore to the government of India… Don’t they have any responsibility for Korba?” Baghel said. “When we ask them, they say the government of India has asked them not to (give money to the state),” he added.
“I have nothing in writing… They have admitted it in the course of conversations…I have no proof. It’s clear from their conduct. It means as much.”
A senior government functionary in New Delhi, however, denied the allegation, saying, “Can he show a single circular from the Centre regarding this? He (the CM) is making baseless allegations. Why should we respond?”
The chief minister has also written to the central government seeking financial assistance of Rs 30,000 crore for the resumption of business activities in the state. “We are a producing state… cement, iron, coal… all are affected. How is it possible to restart activities without financial assistance?” he said. “You (Centre) collect the taxes, so who else should we demand it (assistance) from? The maximum collection of fees and taxes happens in March but it has been zero this time.”
‘Timely measures helped’
Baghel attributed the state’s successful Covid-19 management to timely measures, such as the imposition of prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 to prevent the assembly of people from 19 March, five days before the imposition of the nationwide lockdown.
Curfew was imposed two days later. As many as 2,100 people who had travelled abroad after 1 March were put under quarantine. Inter-district movements were stopped and even villagers put up barricades to stop the entry of outsiders. “We put special emphasis on social distancing and that was the biggest safeguard,” said the CM.