AIADMK, DMK govt cross swords over COVID-19, reopening liquor outlets in TN Assembly

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Chennai, Jun 23 (PTI) Leader of Opposition K Palaniswami on Wednesday argued with treasury benches over management of the COVID-19 pandemic and matters like reopening of state-run liquor stores and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test.

Palaniswami, speaking on the motion of thanks to the Governor for his Address,detailed the steps taken by the AIADMK government led by him like carrying out 'highest number' of RT-PCR tests, creating 265 testing centres, holding over nine lakh fever camps to detect those with symptoms, creating more than one lakh beds, making available drugs, PPE, masks and so on.

During the first wave, despite challenges like non-availability of vaccination, the initiatives of government led to containment of COVID-19 and measures like highest RT-PCR tests even won the praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said.

When Palaniswami said upto 85,000 tests were done during the first wave, Medical Minister Ma Subramanian said now about 1,70,000 tests were being done daily and the measures of the DMK government has won appreciation from the Centre.

At this the AIADMK top leader said over 80,000 tests were done when cases were about 7,000 last year, now about three lakh tests should have been done as the state witnessed a high of 36,000 plus fresh cases last month. Also, only seven test centres have been added by the DMK government, he said.

The debate also saw Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan pitching in saying additional machines have been installed in the existing centres and staggering shifts thereby improving service level quality.

When Palaniswami said the kin of those who die of the virus are not given certificates disclosing the cause of death, Subramanian said the ICMR's guidelines are followed as was the case during the previous AIADMK regime.

As per norms, death certificates do not specify cause and due to misinformation that there are schemes that benefitted the kin of those who died of virus, many were now seeking certificates with a COVID-19 death declaration, the Minister said.

Chief Minister M K Stalin has implemented a welfare scheme for the benefit of children who have lost one or both the parents, he pointed out, adding this scheme was not open to kin of all those who succumbed to the pathogen.

As soon as Palaniswami said the bodies of victims were handed over to family members without proper packaging, Endowments Minister P K Sekar Babu denied it saying only after running a (RT-PCR) test, the bodies are handed over to the families.

Palaniswami said Stalin as leader of opposition had staged a protest last year against reopening of liqour shops on May 7, 2020 (AIADMK regime), when the state had 580 fresh virus cases and when there were two deaths.

However, when the DMK government reopened liqour shops on June 14, the fresh cases were 12,772 and there were 254 deaths, the AIADMK leader said.

Responding, Excise Minister V Senthil Balaji said the AIADMK government reopened shops when the positive ratio saw a gradual increase to 10.4 per cent from about 4.1 per cent during May-June 2020.

However, the DMK government allowed functioning of shops when the positive ratio was on a decline. It was 5.4 per cent on June 14, when the shops were reopened in 27 districts and it further reduced to 2.8 per cent on Tuesday, he said.

The Chief Minister did not permit reopening shops in 11 other districts that previously had positivity of five plus per cent and even in such regions the positive ratio is on a decline, Balaji said.

Palaniswami, who was Chief Minister between from February 2017 to April 2021, also sought to target the government on issues like powercuts.

When the former CM said that the DMK promised cancelling NEET during the recent election campaign, Chief Minister Stalin responded saying his party only assured that steps would be taken to get exemption for Tamil Nadu from the test.

The party did not say that the test would be cancelled immediately. Expressing confidence that Tamil Nadu would emerge victorious on the NEET front, he said the AIADMK should support the government on the matter. PTI VGN BN BALA BN BALA

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