Dubbed the 'Unlock' interview, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday, talked about the ongoing war against Coronavirus (COVID-19) in a 48-minute conversation with Saamana executive editor Sanjay Raut. Summarising his first six months as CM, he said it was bizarre as Corona dominated it mainly. Thackeray - the Shiv Sena Supremo has given a 2-part interview to the Sena mouthpiece about Coronavirus, Maharashtra politics and his strict line on Lockdown.
"I took over the responsibility of Chief Ministership at a time when we were struck by a serious pandemic. It was necessary to tackle the problem at a deep level to take the correct decision. These six months were bizarre. While a government's six months used to celebrated, nowadays six months of the Opposition seems to be celebrated. There were many obstacles namely- political - which I don't bother about till I have the people's blessings," he said.
He added "All must learn to live with Coronavirus and that is what I am trying to convey with my Facebook Live sessions. Till we don't accept this new lifestyle, I must continue these sessions and discourage unnecessary travel and crowding." Talking about Nisarga cyclone and COVID-19, "As we took precautions we could keep the fatalities to a minimum. But the war against Corona is one whose end cannot be seen, we must continue our fight."
Clarifying the rumours on Army deployment in Mumbai, he said," We never needed Army deployment in Maharashtra to enforce lockdown. I had suggested that we should use the Army to quickly construct field hospitals in the city to face the bed shortage. I am very happy with the government officials for working quickly and constructing such hospitals in 15-20 days like China."
Dharavi which was recognised by WHO as a model to fight Coronavirus has now seen a steady decrease in cases. Thackeray shared pride at Mumbai's recognition but maintained that the situation was not under control as such remarks would lead to complacency. He also maintained his refusal to reopen religious placed saying 'God is within'.
"WHO has lauded the Dharavi model and even the Washington Post has stated that Mumbai is the only city where data is not being shielded," said Thackeray. Talking about the lockdown on religious places, he said, "God is within each one of us. Gadge Baba used to visit Pandharpur, but instead of visiting the temple, he used to clean the banks of Chandrabhaga (river) with his broom. If someone asked him about darshan, he said 'This is my Vithoba'."
Commenting on Maharashtra over 3-lakh cases, he said that just as no one counted all Prime Ministers till date and took only Prime Minister Modi as the current leader, one must also not count those who had recovered from COVID. He added that the state government was focused on reducing fatalities by detecting the virus at an early stage, treating efficiently as there was no cure yet. Warning against early victory in Mumbai, he said, "I can't declare that the virus is under control in Mumbai because then we will become complacent".
When asked about Unlock 2, he said, "One can't lockdown suddenly or unlock suddenly. Either one must be prepared to have no lockdown as in the US. Are we prepared to do that? I am not. I am not Donald Trump and can't see my people suffering in front of my eyes." Thackeray also stated that one can't open Vada-pav stalls, local trains hurriedly as it may lead to fatalities of entire families.
Reiterating Maharashtra government's decision to defer Final year exams, contradicting Centre's order to hold exams by September, Thackeray said that it was not possible to hold exams now. The University Grants Commission (UGC), on the other hand, has told the Bombay High Court on July 24 that the state government does not have the power to make such declaration. Students have been wondering the fate of their degrees and future job prospects amid this tussle.
Commenting on the ongoing UGC row, he said, "We have decided to pass Final year students as per the aggregate of their performance throughout the year. Students who wish to give exams, we are ready to arrange when it is possible. We said this in May and now it is July. I do not think it is possible to hold exams by September." Talking about the Centre's aide to the state, he said that the financial aid promised to Maharashtra was being transferred to the state slowly. Explaining the problems faced by all occupations, he said, "Farmers, dairy-farmers, migrants are facing job crunch and so is the government. Where do I raise funds from to provide relief?"