Madhya Pradesh: BJP govt to use outfit that faced closure under Congress rule to tackle COVID-19

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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. (Express photo/Anil Sharma)

The recent change of guard in Madhya Pradesh has turned out to be a godsend for the Jan Abhiyan Parishad (JAP), a body meant to serve as a bridge between NGOs and the state government, because the Congress government wanted to close it down arguing that its members were ideologically inclined to the RSS and BJP.

Noting that JAP’s activities had stopped in the last one-and-a-half years, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Friday instructed that the organisation should be actively involved in providing relief to people suffering due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

JAP has 416 members, who are functional at district and block levels and in touch with 27,000 rural-level organisations. In a video conference, the CM said they should assist the district administration to provide food and ration to the needy. They should also involve themselves in distribution of Ayurvedic, Homeopathic and Unani medicines that build immunity, and to provide information about the coronavirus in rural areas.

JAP functions under the Department of Planning, Economics and Statistics. On Thursday, a day before the CM’s video conference, Additional Chief Secretary Mohammed Suleiman wrote to all divisional commissioners and district collectors asking them to seek assistance from JAP members to fight the outbreak while highlighting its extensive reach.

Attaching a list of JAP coordinators at division and district levels, Suleiman said the organisation had been formed for comprehensive development and to create an aware society by working as a bridge between NGOs and the system. The letter said JAP had provided financial support to nearly 2500 NGOs working at divisional, district and block levels under a government scheme called Navankuar Yojana. Committees were formed in nearly 26,000 villages under the Prasphutan Yojana. Both the schemes were implemented during BJP rule.

In Opposition till the end of 2018, the Congress used to allege that JAP was staffed with people ideologically inclined to the RSS and the BJP and they were working as political agents of the BJP government. After coming to power in December 2018, the Kamal Nath government made it clear that it would wind up the organisation at the earliest.

The incumbent CM is the ex-officio chairman of the body.

When JAP staffers pleaded with the government and met the CM in February 2019, he gave them three months to work by rising above their political ideology or face closure. The Congress government did not involve the JAP in any activities and the organisation’s existence faced uncertainty till the collapse of the Congress government late last month.

“Yes, it appeared that JAP would be wound up earlier but the CM (Chouhan) knows the strengths of the organisation and it has rightly decided to use its wide network to provide relief,” said JAP vice chairman Pradeep Pandey.

Congress leader Bhupendra Gupta, who was OSD to former CM Kamal Nath, alleged that the BJP governments had used the entity to further its political agenda by using government funds. “Our government had given JAP employees three months to get their act together and they had promised to behave,’’ he said, adding that their activities should be monitored and the employees should be removed if they engage in political activities again.

CAG, in its latest report (March 31, 2018), had pointed out that JAP had submitted false utilization certificates to the tune of Rs 20.80 crore.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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