Minister spells out GoI’s ­Covid-relief measures

We are ready to partner with GoI in nation building, especially in the healthcare and education sectors,” said RIPN Shekhar Mehta, in a virtual meet with G Kishan Reddy, Union Minister of State for Home, and updated him with Rotary’s plans and goals for healthcare, literacy and the Covid-relief activities by Rotary India.

He said Rotary has come out with a Disaster Management Plan by identifying seismic zones and flood-prone areas in India. “We are ready to provide 10,000 shelter kits, each containing 52 utility items for disaster victims, to the government in its rescue efforts during natural calamities. Besides, there are around 200 Rotarian doctors willing to assist you in relief work,” he added. Apart from relief work, Rotary has taken up a number of rehab programmes for disaster victims in Kerala (target: 1,000 homes), West Bengal (100 houses) and Andaman and ­Nicobar Islands (500 houses).

Union Minister G Kishan Reddy.
Union Minister G Kishan Reddy.

The minister in turn spoke about the government’s proactive steps in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. Spelling out the government’s efforts to help migrants, caught in the pandemic, he said it had set aside ₹61,000 crore for providing jobs to migrant and temporary workers under the MNREGA in April budget which was followed up with another ₹40,000 crore under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package. “In all, a total of ₹1.1 lakh crore is being disbursed to the States for creating rural jobs,” he said.

Calling for a united front ­pandemic fight, Reddy said the ­Centre has ­earmarked ₹14,000 crore to States for providing food to migrant labourers.

Surplus food

With record production, there is no shortage of food supplies and food procurement is on with favourable MSP (minimum support prices) for farmers. The GoI has announced free supply of food grains to poor families for five months, raised the loan ceiling from ₹10 to ₹20 lakh for women SHGs, offered a slew of economic support to farmers, and credited ₹1,500 each in the Jan Dhan accounts.

Under Atmanirbhar Bharat, the rural and urban economies are being revived with agri-support to farmers to produce and market their crops, offering concessional loans to MSMEs, street vendors and small shops in urban areas for working capital.

Disaster Management System

The government has put in place a ‘robust disaster management framework’ to withstand the Covid shock initially, take prompt decisions and ensured proactive steps to contain the pandemic. “PM Modi declared Covid as a national disaster and the comprehensive National Disaster Management laws were invoked to deal adequately with the situation,” and our ‘rapid response’ was acknowledged by the WHO.

India, as a partner-member of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), is involved in taking a series of mitigation efforts to tackle national calamities, said Reddy. “Amid the pandemic, we are also dealing with cyclone havoc in Bengal and Odisha where the rapid response teams have taken pre-emptive steps to avoid casualties.” Going forward, the mantra will be ‘rapid action, prevention and coordination’ and the GoI is taking all steps including the Covid Update and Aarogya Setu App by leveraging technology to contain the pandemic, he added.

Covid spin-off

Till March 15, not a single Indian firm produced either a PPE kit or an N-95 mask, and they were imported. “But now 500 start-ups make 4.9 lakh PPE kits per day, thanks to the ­war-footing efforts of the government. Before the Covid outbreak, there was only one testing lab in Pune and now 784 labs have been set up in the country and their personnel trained online,” Reddy said.

At present, there are 958 Covid hospitals with 4.53 lakh beds in ready mode to admit patients and ventilators are being made in India now to meet the requirements. “India has exported hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to 54 countries with free shipments to poor nations. WHO has endorsed the usage of HCQ tablets after initial hesitation with persuasion from India.”

RID Kamal Sanghvi, RIDN A S Venkatesh, Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty and PDG Kishore K ­Cherukumalli spoke at the webinar attended by 1,500 Rotarians from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.

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