Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today called for an all-party committee to come up with feedback for the state government and the health department on how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. During a discussion on COVID-19, Mr Kumar said they did not anticipate such a big health crisis and asked the assembly Speaker to form the all-party committee.
Mr Kumar's proposal comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state and across the country, with India reporting over 18 lakh cases today, just a day after the total cases crossed 17 lakh.
Mr Kumar said no one can tell with certainty what would happen to the Bihar assembly election scheduled later this year. He said only the Election Commission can take a call on holding elections.
The Chief Minister was speaking in the last session of the Bihar assembly before its term ends.
While starting the debate on coronavirus, Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav launched a spirited attack on the Nitish Kumar government and alleged he has "carelessly handled" the health crisis.
Quoting data from the centre, Mr Yadav said Bihar should have done much more to fight the pandemic before the number of infections started rising. The treasury benches, however, did not interrupt him and the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, whose father Lalu Yadav is in jail in a corruption case, spoke without stopping.
"Before fighting coronavirus, do take a look at the condition of Bihar for the last 15 years, the condition of hospitals, public facilities… Let me quote from a report that praises your government. 'Members were aghast in seeing bodies of Covid patients lying on the hospital floor, patients' attendants were moving around the ward, shouting for help while doctors were not going near the COVID-19 patients'," Mr Yadav said as he took a swipe at the state government's handling of the crisis.
On why the number of COVID-19 positive people is increasing, the Chief Minister said it has got more to do with the growing number of testing for coronavirus infection. "Testing has gone up, so has actual numbers, and it's our job to ensure we do maximum testing," Mr Kumar said.
Coronavirus cases in Bihar are nearing the 60,000-mark with 2,297 fresh cases reported in the last 24 hours. Among fatalities, the maximum of four was reported from state capital Patna, where those who died included state CPI secretary Satyanarayan Singh.
Several leaders have announced they have been found infected with coronavirus. Home Minister Amit Shah and Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa have been admitted to hospital.