- Demand for protective gear was the refrain in PMs meeting
- There was no response to the states' other big demand- extra funds
- "States can make their own arrangements": Amit Shah
BJP ally Nitish Kumar had a long list of complaints as he attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first video conference with states on the subject of coronavirus. Almost all of it related to supplies of protective gear for medical personnel, who are at the frontline in the battle against the virus.
Demand for protective gear was the refrain in the meeting, which was attended by Chief Ministers of Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu among others. Union home minister Amit Shah, who was present along with the Prime Minister, said efforts were on for procurement of protective gear, and states can also make their own arrangements, There was no response to the states' other big demand -- extra funds.
In his speech, Nitish Kumar also expressed confidence that the country would "overcome all the challenges and defeat the epidemic" -- a comment that got a shoutout from PM Modi. "Aapke muh mein ghee shakkar (May what you say come true)," the Prime Minister said in his concluding speech.
Mr Kumar's government later gave a detailed account of the interaction to the media.
Once an avid critic of PM Modi, Mr Kumar had gone to the video conference armed with a list.
"We demanded 5 lakh PPE kit, but got 4000. Against our demand of 10 lakh N-95 masks, we got just 10,000. We asked for 10 lakh Pl mask, but got just 1 lakh. Against a demand for 10,000 RNA extraction kits, Bihar got 250," the Chief Minister had said, the state government said in a communique later.
He said his state had also asked for 100 ventilators, didn't get a single one.
The communique also said Mr Kumar had requested the Prime Minister to increase the fiscal deficit from 3 to 4 percent as it was done in 2009-10 during the slow down. This would enable the states to borrow more – measure needed in view of the economic downturn following the outbreak. If the fiscal deficit demand is conceded, Bihar would be able to another Rs 6,461 crore every year.
The Chief Minister has asked for one kit – which would comprise testing kit, RNA extraction kit and other items.
The lack of adequate protective gear has been echoing from various parts of the country as health professionals have been increasingly falling prey to the virus in the line of duty. Others – including doctors in Out-Patient Department, nurses and ambulance workers -- have been demanding protective gear.