Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda has called for curtailing election victory celebrations, and postponement of all byelections and local elections by six months as part of measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
All large public gatherings should be banned for the next six months, the Janata Dal (Secular) supremo said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering a few suggestions to contain the spread.
“Steps should be taken immediately to curtail election victory celebrations in States that have gone to polls this month. Since no state legislature’s term is expiring after May this year, all byelections and local elections should be postponed by six months,” the Rajya Sabha member said.
During this period, Mr Gowda said, the Election Commission can evolve new rules for conduct of safe elections, and simultaneously, the vaccination programme has to be accelerated.
He assured the Prime Minister that he will support all constructive decisions and initiatives that the Union government may take under his leadership, to contain the pandemic, spread the vaccination programme, and save lives.
Stating that he believes that this is a time to act and act swiftly, Mr Gowda said health administration and Covid management has to be quickly decentralised.
Medical professionals at all levels have to be urgently hired on short contracts to help district administrations, he said, adding, the authority to hire medical and para-medical personnel should be given to district collectors, district health officers and district hospitals.
According to him, it is not sufficient to have a war room at the state-level, in state capitals, but there should be war rooms at all district headquarters.
The focus currently has been on big cities.
But there is a greater danger lurking in non-urban districts and taluk centres.
Village clusters also need urgent attention.
The Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj has to be deployed to coordinate these efforts.
All government departments have a role in this health crisis and not just the Ministry of Health, he suggested.
Mr Gowda said there is no clear messaging on the vaccination front, and there is a lot of confusion among people, especially after the surge of the second wave.
Since many people who had taken the first and second dose of vaccination have also been infected there is lurking cynicism about the vaccines, he said.
It has to be clearly told that vaccines are the only best thing we have to protect not just our own lives but those of others too.
“Science has to be placed above every belief we may have and faith we follow”.
Mr Gowda said deadlines have to be set for people to get vaccinated as soon as state governments are confident of their vaccine stocks.
Elected representatives at all levels have to be given specific targets to ensure vaccination in their respective constituencies.
Stating that the pricing of vaccines has created a lot of confusion, Mr Gowda said private players are talking out of turn when such an enormous public health issue threatens humanity.
“Pricing should be done keeping in mind the poorest in the land. If the government decides to give vaccines free to all citizens that would be a great humanitarian gesture,” he said.
Grace marks should be given in the NEET postgraduate examination for doctors who have been working in Covid hospitals this academic year, Mr Gowda said, adding, this is because a majority of them have spent their time in Covid duties and have had little time to focus on their exam preparation.
“We should provide government job to one family member of Covid warriors who have lost their lives,” he said.
State governments, Mr Gowda said, can create an informal communication network to help each other.
One Minister in each State can be put in-charge to both seek help from other state governments as well as offer help.
This too is cooperative federalism.
“Members of the opposition with administrative experience should also be roped in. The virus does not understand political partisanship. This is a national crisis, and we should fight it as one nation,” he said.
The Government of India should establish state-of- the-art vaccination production centres, one in north India and one in south India, in the immediate future, Mr Gowda said.
According to him, plans and efforts to build long term public health infrastructure should begin immediately, and a larger percentage of our resources should be kept aside for public health.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)