UP CM Yogi Adityanath exclusive interview with TOI
He is at work nearly 20 hours a day, holds meetings, and instructs his ministers and officials to carry out the ongoing battle. UP CM, however, saved time from its busy schedule to share its plans to deal with the crisis with the TOI. He talks about how dealing with challenges is a habit now, but seeing thousands of workers marching to UP was both emotional and stressful for him.
After a month and a half of blocking and almost 2,150 cases, what is your evaluation of UP's performance? Have we passed the peak or are we still getting closer?
Right now, we have 1,600 active cases and after a month and a half of social distancing and confinement, we can say that we are safe. But the crown chain must be broken at all levels.
We began taking action to address the crown in early March when the first case was reported. When the Prime Minister issued an alert to stop all Holi Milan functions, we issued instructions that Holi should not be held. Not even I participated in any. I had meetings on March 11 and 13. First, educational institutions were closed, followed by cinemas, shopping malls, multiplexes and markets.
So on March 22, when the prime minister announced the janata curfew, 16-17 UP districts were already locked up. Others followed after March 25.
It was an unprecedented occasion and he needed unprecedented steps. Especially in a state like UP with such a large and dense population. Secondly, we had to develop a plan to protect the section that was going to be the most affected: the daily bet of all kinds.
For this, we formed a group of ministers to plan to ensure that the adverse impact of the blockade did not hit this section. Under Modiji's leadership, ministers were asked to develop policies and a group of officers were asked to execute them. UP was the first state to announce Rs 1,000 ex gratia to all kinds of daily wage workers.
Now, I can vouch for the fact that all of my computers have come out with exceptional performance. It is the result of their teamwork that UP is in a safe state.
But the challenge in the third phase is to reopen and manage a large influx of migrants.
You expect 10 lakh of migrants in this phase. What are your plans for them? Do you think they will stay or come back when things get back to normal?
This is an opportunity for us. I have discussed with my ministers and officers. We assume that returning workers have different job skills. We can use your UP skill. I have formed committees at both cabinet and officer levels to work on this.
Is creating 15 lakh jobs as advertised a realistic goal?
We have 90 lakh MSME units and fewer access points, most are up or running in phases. A large number of skilled workers would be absorbed in this sector and in ODOP. Then there is a huge NGO sector, which would be another employer of skilled and unskilled migrant workers. We have already created 8 lakh MNREGS jobs. So 15 lakh jobs will not be a problem. From raw material supply to final product delivery, this workforce would be easily accommodated. Our goal is to provide 15 lakh of jobs to these migrants. We are in a position to do so. Until the moment they get a job, we have organized their food.
We have already provided food grains to 18 crore people in two rounds. Tomorrow another round will begin. A large part is free. Those with a ration card get it immediately. Those who don't get cards and then we have a kit of food grains and other essentials ready to be delivered until the ration cards are prepared.
Will all of these people be screened and evaluated before being allowed in? Do we have enough test kits to take samples from various lakh people?
When bringing them back, we must ensure that they do not bring infection. Those who show no symptoms will then be sent to the 14-day home quarantine and those who are suspected will be kept in quarantine facilities. Only positive cases would be sent to Covid hospitals. We have kept 52,000 beds ready in all three categories: L1, L2, and L3.
It is a more difficult phase, but our teamwork will address this. We are now ready with 7 lakh quarantine beds and would increase it to 10 lakh in two days.
There has already been some relaxation in the green zone. But what about the red and orange zones after May 3? UP's main industrial and commercial centers such as Noida and are in the red zone Does the state have a strategy to open the red zones?
We do not want to take any risk. We are working on an extensive plan on red and orange areas. The first task is to define them properly. We will give relaxation in stages to the industries and shops in the green zone with adequate instructions to follow the social distancing. As for orange and red, we are working on a detailed plan. The breaking of the crown chain is essential to reduce deaths and, to this end, confinement and social distancing must be followed. We cannot waste the profits we have made during the closing months and a half.
The 28-day sealing protocol for hot spots in Noida has raised concerns among residents that they will remain caught in an endless sealing cycle, even if a positive case leads to an entire housing society being locked up for 28 days. Are you reviewing the 28-day protocol?
We are fighting this battle with the support of the people and I am grateful to the UP people who, under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi, have shown remarkable restraint in closing the operation. It is a great challenge to protect 135 crore people in such an outbreak. With PM Modi's vision for the future, we have been able to manage this. Otherwise, see the condition of the United States. There are already 60,000 deaths. Western Europe is equally bad. Despite their claims for development and low population, they are reporting many cases and deaths. India is in a good position due to confinement and social distancing. And we need to move forward observing this discipline. Economic development and employment opportunities would continue.
What will be the strategy for hot spots? Will it move from sealing to testing and detection?
Of course, testing and screening is the way to go. When the crisis started, we had only one laboratory with the capacity to analyze 50 samples per day. In a month and a half, we have 17 laboratories that perform approximately 5,000 tests per day. We were the first to introduce group tests to increase the number.
What has been your most difficult moment in this fight so far? And what has made you more emotional?
Facing challenges is our habit now. So there is no difficulty as such. This is also because we work under the guidance of the Prime Minister who continues to guide us through VC and telephone. But there are times of emotional stress. When suddenly more than 4,000 lakhs of UP immigrants defied the confinement and started walking from Delhi on March 28 and 29, it was one of those moments. Arranging for your safe journey to your destination was a great challenge. But by the grace of God, we did it. Today, Noida is safe and UP is safe.
Despite his announcement to bring people from other states, there are many who are still walking.
Today I have appealed again. It had appointed nodal officers for each state to monitor the condition of migrant workers. They constantly work to solve your problem. Now, we have also organized their repatriation in phases. This is a great challenge, since we have to make sure that those who come do not bring any type of infection with them. We are confident that we will succeed.
How long will this battle last? Is the state looking for a long-term strategy to deal with the pandemic? In addition to opening industries, is there a timeline for normal life to begin?
We have to break the crown chain at all levels. For this, we must find the reasons and sources of infection. If we can do that, we will be successful. In our case, the first source was people who came from abroad. They affected a large section. So it was a big challenge. Not only did they ignore this disease, but they also made statements to discredit the security measures being taken. When quarantined and evaluated, many tested positive. Medical infection is another challenge. Three private hospitals are the main sources of infection in Agra .
The Agra model received a lot of praise in the beginning. But now cases rising.
Things were totally under control in Agra. But because of these three hospitals, the condition there has turned critical. That's why we made it clear that only those hospitals should run emergency services which follow the Covid protocol. General OPD is still not operational. We have advised hospital to use telemedicine to run their general OPDs. We have started this service in each district. Hospitals in all districts have been given essential things like PPE kits and masks to run emergency services. After stopping medical infection, we would be able to move forward.
What is the drop in the SGDP and the manufacturing sector that the state is looking at on the other side of the blockade?
We thank Prime Minister Modi, whose hyperopia has saved India from disaster. I am again citing the example of the United States. Compared to the strongest country in the world, India is in a safer condition. Therefore, all economic activities would happen after following the safety principle first. We will decide which industry to start first.
Have there been reports of poor quality or no food at some quarantine and retention centers? What is being done for better monitoring?
We are using technology to curb irregularities. We have geo-tagged all community kitchens. We can monitor the 7,000 kitchens from here. Similarly, PDS stores have been linked to e-PoS machines, 80,000 of them. Millions of people have received food without complaint. Additionally, DBT has been used to transfer money to daily bets. Everything was done in a completely transparent way.
Some BJP Have MLAs made the headlines for questioning the government and making statements like don't buy vegetables from Muslims? Does this add to your problems?
Loktantra mein bayanbazi paida nahin karti hai (In democracy, such statements do not cause much trouble). They give an opportunity to be alert. But I would suggest everyone make any statement after thinking it through and after understanding the facts.
What measures have been taken against them?
The party has sent them just cause notices. I think you become a laughingstock by making statements without knowing the facts.
His government was getting big on infrastructure projects. what will happen to them?
We have begun construction work on our highway projects.
What about your deadline and budget?
Of course, there will be some impact. We were going at great speed. What will happen if a vehicle runs at 120 km/h and the brakes are applied? Speed is bound to slow down. Then these projects would be gradually accelerated.
What is the timeline for Ram Mandir now?
The trust formed for this is working on a detailed plan.
From giving 1,000 rupees to thousands of thousands of daily workers to starting group tests to bring immigrants home, UP is being emulated.
Where do you get these ideas from?
We are fortunate to be guided by the Prime Minister and then by the Union's Interior Minister. Our team of cabinet ministers develop policies and officers implement them. It is a team effort.
UP is hyperactive when moving industrial units that could leave China in a post-Covid scenario.
We have already started working on policy change to welcome and accommodate China's industries. Two ministers and several offices are working on a war footing. We hope to get a good investment from there.
It was said that in the first phase, did you put the officers to work and ignored the ministers since none of them were part of Team 11?
Ministers were involved in policy formulation from the beginning. They were using technology to do that. The first objective was to verify the infection. You see that there are crowds wherever the politicians go. So implementing social distancing would have been difficult. But now everyone is deeply involved, chairing different committees.