Not Just Food & Medicines, Govt Transferring Money Directly Into Accounts of Migrant Workers: Amit Shah

Rebutting the charges that Union government lost precious time in preparing the country in the wake of coronavirus, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that since the enforcement of the lockdown the government has been preparing a trained army of workers at district level to fight Covid-19. The government has also been working over the past two months in bolstering its health systems at district level.

Shah also responded to a question about Unlock 1.0, whose timing many questioned considering the rising number of Covid-19 positive cases and mortality figures. He said that the Unlock 1.0 was announced after weeks and months of steadfast preparations by the union government.

In an exclusive interview with Network 18’s editor-in-chief Rahul Joshi, on the occasion of completion of the first year of Modi 2.0 government, Shah said, "All this while we have been improving upon health facilities in our districts. Initially the states were also not ready to accept them. Quarantine facilities were not up to the mark. We have set up all these facilities over the past two months. Meanwhile we have also been training home guards, panchayat workers, health workers in dealing with this pandemic. Only after taking all these measures have we announced Unlock 1.0."

Till the time a vaccine was found for the pandemic, Shah said that the people will have to learn to live with the virus. He also added that India was doing far better than most countries.

"We have also suffered like the rest of the world but we have done much better than most comparatively speaking. Take for example this statistic - the number of infections on an average in India is 12.6 people per lakh population. The world average is 77.6 people per lakh, in US this figure is 542, in Germany 217, in Brazil 195. Similarly we have a much better recovery rate as well," Shah said.

He attributed the comparative success of India's fight against the novel Coronavirus to the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"For the first time in the history of this country all the people, the states, everyone fought a natural calamity unitedly, as one. Whatever be the political colour of a state, everyone has been together in this fight and our Prime Minister has ensured that there is a healthy cooperation between the centre and the states, and that states get whatever help centre is in a position to offer them," the Union Home Minister said.

Shah also highlighted the steps that the Union government had taken in helping the cause of migrant workers in the country. "We have used 11,000 crore National Disaster Relief Fund to provide food to the workers, to provide them bus facilities, health facilities. 41 lakh workers have been sent on through buses, 55 lakh workers have been sent home on Shramik trains. We sympathise with whoever was in a difficult position during the lockdown but it would be wrong to say that the country did not do anything. In all 1.1 crore people have been sent home," Shah said.

He also wished to end the controversy that has been raging about the payment of the fare of transporting migrant workers in trains. "Let me say categorically that 85% of the train fare has been paid by Railways and the rest 15% has been paid by the states."

Amit Shah said that apart from providing help in kind - food, transportation and medical facilities - the government has also been transferring money directly into the accounts of migrant workers through the Direct Benefit Scheme. On the question of many financial institutions, including SBI, predicting a negative growth rate for the country, Shah said that all economies across the globe were hit just has India was. But he expressed confidence that India, under the leadership of the Prime Minister who was converting this calamity into an opportunity for the country, would emerge to be in a much better position in the post-Covid world than it was in a pre-Covid world.

One of the ways in which India could do it, Shah argued, was if all Indians bought only goods made in India.

"I would like to appeal to every Indian. They should consume India-made products only. I think this will give our economy a huge jump. If one caters to a 130 crore strong market India will surely turn into a big manufacturing hub," Shah said.

Amit Shah also answered many political questions from BJP's rise to power in Madhya Pradesh to the party's ambitions of getting absolute majority in West Bengal assembly elections. On West Bengal's frayed relations with the centre, Shah said that the manner in which the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had prevented trains of West Bengali migrant workers from getting into her state and termed such trains as 'Corona Express' will never be forgotten by the people of the state. He said that because of her mishandling of the situation in her state, BJP was poised to take over the state with absolute majority in the upcoming assembly elections.

On the question of the toppling of Kamal Nath led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, he said that BJP couldn't be blamed for it. "It is for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to find why did a senior leader of their party resign from his party membership". On the allegation of BJP trying to engineer a coup in Maharashtra, just as it did in Madhya Pradesh, at a sensitive time during the Covid crisis, Shah categorically said that Shivrajsingh Chauhan's government took over in Bhopal before the lockdown and that BJP "has never tried to destabilise any government during the Covid crisis."

Responding to a question about the transgression into the Indian side of the Line of Action Control (LAC) by the People's Liberation Army of China, Shah said that the "LAC issue will not be taken lightly."

He said that talks were being held between diplomatic channels and between officials of the defence establishments to resolve the issue. "This government is duty bound to protect its borders and there should be no doubt about the fact that absolutely no compromise will be made by India in securing its borders whether they be on land on in water."