COVID-19: Maha foundation day celebrations remain low-key

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(Eds: Adding quotes and clubbing related copies) Mumbai, May 1 (PTI) Amid the surge in COVID-19 cases and several lockdown-like restrictions being in place, the 61st Foundation Day of Maharashtra was celebrated in a low-key manner on Saturday for the second year in a row.

In normal times, the Maharashtra Din is celebrated with parades, political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various public and private events hailing the history and traditions of the western Indian state.

The Day commemorates the formation of the state of Maharashtra after the division of the Bombay State on May 1, 1960.

On the occasion, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray unfurled the national flag at Mantralaya, the administrative headquarters of the state in south Mumbai.

Thackeray paid floral tributes to the portraits of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the Maratha king's mother Jijamata and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on the occasion.

Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat were also present.

Earlier, Thackeray visited Hutatma Chowk in south Mumbai and placed a wreath at the memorial to pay respects to the 105 martyrs who had laid down their lives for a unified Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital.

Apart from Thackeray and Walse Patil, state Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, Mayor Kishori Pednekar, state DGP Sanjay Pandey, Mumbai city Collector Rajiv Nivatkar and Municipal Commissioner I S Chahal was present there.

In other parts of the state, guardian ministers unfurled the tricolour at the respective district headquarters.

In his address to the people in Marathi, state governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari said the Maharashtra government has expedited vaccination in the last few days given the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Koshyari also said the state government has been working to maintain the rising graph of the progress of the state while striving to tackle the pandemic.

'While maintaining the tempo of the economy, the government is committed to ensuring justice to the oppressed and neglected sections of the society, women and farmers,' Koshyari said in his address, which was telecast on the Doordarshan and also aired on the All India Radio.

He said the government is working to maintain the state's rising graph and at the same time tackling the pandemic for the last one-and-a-half years.

'We are fighting the pandemic unitedly for more than 15 months and taken various measures to control it. However, in the last few days, there has been a sudden spike in the number of patients. The government has increased the speed of vaccination,' he added.

As of Friday, Maharashtra's caseload stood at 46,02,472 and the death toll at 68,813.

The COVID-19 vaccination count in Maharashtra stood at 1,58,88,121, an official had said on Friday.

The governor also said the state government was trying its best to resolve the ongoing boundary dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka in the Supreme Court.

Speaking in Pune, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar took a swipe at the Union government over the surge in cases.

'During the first wave of the pandemic, Maharashtra was hit hard. But in the second wave, some other states have also been impacted badly, possibly due to the poll gatherings and Kumbh Mela. Therefore, the Centre is under pressure as it has to supply oxygen and other material to these states,' he said.

'I feel the Centre should not have exported COVID-19 vaccines to other countries,' he added.

Citing predictions by medical experts about the third wave of the pandemic, Pawar said the state government is developing healthcare facilities across the state and also setting up infrastructure for the supply of medical oxygen.

In Mumbai, state Congress president Nana Patole appealed to the party workers to pay for vaccination and also foot the bill for poor families by adopting them, and donate the amount in the Chief Minister's relief fund.

Speaking after unfurling the tricolour at the Congress office in Mumbai, Patole said the state government is tackling the pandemic bravely.

He said Congress will stand by the people in the vaccination drive.

Maharashtra NCP president Jayant Patil said the state has successfully defeated several calamities earlier and will not surrender before coronavirus.

'With a united front, we will defeat the pandemic and once again breathe freely,' he said. PTI MR NP NSK NSK