Citizen Derek, @derekobrienmp – MP & Parliamentary party leader (Rajya Sabha), Trinamool Congress:
Bengal CM @mamataofficial is also State’s health minister.
Her approach has been-Decisive. Compassionate. Proactive.
- In early March, she had been warning that the novel coronavirus could lead to a health emergency. She set up a Rs 200 crore emergency fund, making Bengal the first state to take such an initiative.
- We ordered 400,000 masks, 400,000 CPU machines and 300 ventilators. We also ordered new ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machines, which play a crucial role when a patient’s heart and lungs begin to fail.
- Some 110,000 PPE (personal protective equipment) kits, 50,000 N95 masks, 18,000 litres of hand sanitiser and 3,000 thermal guns have been distributed across the state. These numbers will go up in the coming days, as and if the need arises.
- For health & emergency professionals – doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, ASHAs and ICDS workers, sanitation workers, couriers, police personnel, and their families – the Bengal government has introduced a Rs 10 lakh health insurance cover.
- Benefits are not limited to state government employees. The central government and even private-sector employees working in Bengal can avail this insurance scheme. As Bengal CM put it, anyone working for the welfare of Bengal’s people is our responsibility.
- Medical facilities are being seriously ramped up. The 2,200-bed Calcutta Medical College and Hospital – among the oldest in Asia, with a two-century legacy – is becoming an exclusive COVID-19 hospital, with the number of beds increased to 3,000.
- A new, 500-bed hospital in Rajarhat, just east of Kolkata, has been set aside exclusively for quarantine. Howrah’s Dumurjola Indoor Stadium has also been converted into a quarantine centre.
- At R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, another well-known Kolkata institution, a 50-bed isolation ward is being set up on a temporary basis. The M.R. Bangur Hospital has been geared up for COVID-19, with an additional 150 beds.
- It is not possible for patients, COVID-19 patients or otherwise, to travel long distances to city hospitals for treatment. A long commute risks greater spread of infection. Therefore, one hospital in each of Bengal’s 22 districts has been dedicated to COVID-19 patients.
- In phase one, fifty nine hospitals have been set up to deal with COVID-19 patients only. To ease the pressure of regular patients on hospitals, free TB medicines have been given in bulk for a month to ensure patients do not have to travel daily.
- Social security pensions and allowances are being paid for two months in advance. About 80 million people are being given free rations for six months and two million people – the poorest of the poor – are getting five kg of rice extra a month.
- Midday meals are being home delivered to children under the ICDS programme. Food rations are being provided to even those without ration cards, including migrant workers and the homeless. Twenty seven night shelters have been set up to house the homeless and feed them.
- Bengal government has started a new programme, “Procheshta”, whereby Rs 1,000 will be given as a cash grant to those in the unorganised sector. About six million people, including domestic and migrant workers, will benefit.
- Bengal CM has written to chief ministers of 18 other states urging coordinated efforts to shelter & take care of migrant labourers. She has assured them that 40000 guestworkers from other states,currently in Bengal,are being looked after and provided adequate assistance.
- Special cells have been set up for long-distance transfer and movement of commodities. Each cell is headed by an IAS officer at the level of secretary to the state government.
- At the local level, police stations are monitoring smooth supplies and, in particular, helping deliver essential supplies, including medicines, to homes of senior citizens.
- In a state like Bengal, already battling a debt trap that is the legacy of three decades of financial mismanagement, COVID-19 poses an unforeseen challenge. It risks compromising the fiscal prudence of the last ten years.
- In this context, the Bengal CM has written to the Prime Minister requesting an increase in withdrawal limits for states under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act – from the current three per cent of GDP to five per cent.
- State governments have put their best foot forward in the battle against COVID-19. Their response has been free of politics and part of a truly national effort.