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‘What if people die?’: CM Uddhav Thackeray warns against lifting lockdown


Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray strongly backed and justified his decision to not rush in to lift restrictions that are put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), adding would those demanding lifting of the lockdown take responsibility for the fatalities.

Thackeray, a first-time CM, has been criticised for treading cautiously on lifting curbs in Maharashtra. It is also said that Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar intervened to convince him to allow opening up of businesses and industry.

The CM, in part one of the two-part interview to Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana, said that living with coronavirus is a tightrope walk that requires balancing the economy and health of the public.

“There are several smart people speaking against lockdown… Fine, we will open everything for you but unfortunately if the people die due to this, will you take responsibility? There is no problem in opening up, but will they take the responsibility? I am not using the word ‘lockdown’ now. However, I will not say that I am now lifting the lockdown, but gradually restrictions will be lifted. And my attempt is that once an activity is opened, then it should not have to be shut again.

“Just thinking about the economy too will not work. Those who only have a concern about the health situation, however grave it may be, must think a little about the economy as well. Living with coronavirus is a tightrope walk,” Thackeray said.

In a wide-ranging interview, published in Saamna on Saturday, Thackeray spoke on a host of topics – covering the first six months of his government, opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis, the measures taken by the state government to tackle Covid-19, among others.

On being questioned as to when will vada pav, a popular snack in Maharashtra and Mumbai, be available and when will suburban trains resume for common people, he said: “People may be bored [of the lockdown], but to give them a break from it we cannot lift restrictions. If we hastily unlock, and someone loses their life then what good is a livelihood. What will happen if this virus spreads in a factory? Then we must decide that no matter how many people succumb to this disease, we do not want a lockdown. Are you prepared? I am not. I am not [Donald] Trump, I cannot see my people suffer before my eyes… We will start [suburban] railway and vada pav [stalls on the roads]. Families are taking ill and dying. Who will open the lockdown in that family?”

Thackeray, who will soon be 60, also remained measured in his response to the success in containing the spread of Covid-19 in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, and also on the dwindling number of Covid-19 cases from Mumbai.

“I am not going to speak on it. The danger is still there. If I appreciate the work now, complacency may creep in,” said the CM.

The ‘Dharavi model’ was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

CM Thackeray also took potshots at former chief minister and leader of opposition in the legislative assembly Devendra Fadnavis, who visited Delhi earlier this week.

“He must have gone to see the Covid-19 situation there. But he did not say anything about it. He is going to Delhi because he has given Maharashtra’s fund to Delhi (Centre),” said the CM.

Thackeray said that Fadnavis might have “stomach-ache” after an organisation ranked Thackeray as one of the best chief ministers in India.

“He could have a stomach ache because without stepping out anywhere one organisation ranked me as [one of the] best chief ministers in the country. This must be a cause of stomach cramps because corona has varied symptoms,” Thackeray said, taking a swipe at Fadnavis.

Thackeray dismissed the criticism that he has not gone to Mantralaya as much as he should have. He said that he is using the technology to take stock of the situation in the state. “Mantralaya is shut now. The technology has advanced to such an extent now. If one cannot use technology then it is really unfortunate. I am meeting officials and public representatives. In one go I am covering the entire state and I am taking decisions. When it is important to visit physically, then you do go to that place. With videoconferencing, you can cover the entire state,” he said.

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