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Maha CM Uddhav Thackeray: Centre, state should have dialogue before lockdown relaxations

Maharashtra Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Thursday that he was not consulted either before the three-week national lockdown was imposed on March 25, or before the announcement on the resumption of flights.

Thackeray underscored the need for consultations and cooperation between the Centre and states in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. “There is need for cooperation between the Centre and state to go forward,” he said.

“There should be dialogue between the Centre and state before placing restrictions or granting relaxations from the Lockdown. Initially, I was opposed to resuming air services because the airport is not just a service, it is an industry. Apart from pilots and cabin crew, other staff are involved in it. With the lockdown in force until May 31, there were issues of how to transport them and passengers to and from the airport. Then the Centre said that the state should allow at least limited services, stating that Mumbai is an important centre,” Thackeray said.

The chief minister, who completed six months in office on Wednesday, was speaking at the Loksatta interactive web series programme, Sathicha Gazhal Maharashtracha.

Thackeray also said had there been better Centre-state co-ordination, the problems faced by migrants workers could have been avoided.

“Before announcement of the nationwide lockdown in March, migrant workers were seen crowding some railway stations in Mumbai at a time when the government was shutting down activities in a phased manner. I realised that if we don’t allow migrants to return home, it may lead to law and order issues. We requested the Centre to give us some trains over the next few days and offered to bear the cost of their transportation. We said we will not ask anyone to go to their homes, but those who feel insecure can go. Had these trains been allowed then, the migrant workers could have gone home easily and the spread of Covid-19 could have been controlled,” Thackeray said, also stating that Maharashtra has cordial relations with the central government.

Thackeray rejected the BJP’s allegation that he was a “non-playing captain”, and dismissed speculation about a conflict in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi, the three-party coalition of his Shiv Sena, the NCP, and the Congress.

On the BJP’s allegation that his inexperience had led to over-dependence on the bureaucracy and a marginalisation of the political leadership, Thackeray retorted: “Yes, I am inexperienced and dependent on the bureaucracy. So what? Show me one decision which was not correct. My inexperience in administration has allowed me to work with an open mind. I listen to everybody, but that does not mean I don’t take decisions.”

He added caustically, “I think their (the BJP’s) over-experience has left them more confused.”

Asked why he was not seen as asserting himself more and in action as taking charge of the government, Thackeray said, “I am not a Bollywood hero who must be seen in action. Why should I be seen everywhere? Let my work speak. Let my work determine my action.”

He said he was not “someone who would push responsibilities on to others. I accept challenges and I win. I can state with confidence that Maharashtra will emerge stronger as a leading industrial state after overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.”

He was “confident, not confused,” the chief minister said – and reiterated that his government had taken many important policy decisions since taking office six months ago.

“After becoming CM, I announced a loan waiver for farmers. Maharashtra was among the states that ensured there were no communal riots following the Centre’s controversial decision on the CAA. From medical crisis management to migrants’ return home, I am monitoring all developments,” he said.

Thackeray said public health would require greater budget allocation and priority as it had been a long neglected area of governance. He said Mumbai initially had just 900 beds ,which gradually increased to 4000. “And now we are ready with 15,000,” he said.

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