We live in rather interesting times, to say the least.
Of all the things that transpired during the virtual high-level Covid review meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state chief ministers, the ones that seem to have caught the nation’s attention the most – as evident from the memes and jokes they inspired on social media and networking sites – were the sights of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray struggling to pay attention, even looking uninterested, during the PM’s address.
This was amusing as much as ironic because Maharashtra continues to be by far the worst affected state, accounting for more than half of the active Covid caseload in the country (not to mention over a third of Covid deaths since the outbreak), and Delhi has seen an exponential surge in cases over the past few days, recording its highest single-day spike this year – at 8,521 cases on April 9 – and second highest since the beginning of the pandemic.
While night curfew has been imposed in the national capital till the end of this month, the Maharashtra government is staring at the distinct possibility of a 15-day complete lockdown after well realising that the weekend lockdown and night curfew it has already implemented are woefully failing to check the spread of the contagion.
Those scenes at the Covid review meeting thus begged a million-dollar question: Are political rivalries coming in the way of a coordinated effort nationwide to deal with the deadly virus at such a critical juncture?
Well, that is anybody’s guess – but there was a lot more to that meeting, which was fortunately not lost on political observers across the nation and was particularly appreciated by the people of Odisha.
It was the way Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik used the occasion.
As he reminded the Centre, in his typical matter-of-fact manner, that Odisha had received only 146 crore of the 400 crore it had requested under the Emergency Covid Response Plan, he called for the release of at least another 300 crore for Covid management purposes.
As he highlighted Odisha’s impressively successful implementation of the nationwide vaccination campaign, noting how it ranked among the states with the lowest Covid vaccine wastage in the country, he pointed out how his state was unable to speed up its daily vaccination rate of 2.5 lakh persons due to supply issues and needed at least 10 days’ stock of vaccines to prevent a shortage of jabs from derailing the immunisation drive.
As he lauded the Centre for allowing states to spend up to half of the annual allocation under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for Covid management during the 2020-21 period, he requested that the provision be continued for the 2021-22 period as well.
Most notably, the five-time Chief Minister called on the entire nation to come together to overcome the pandemic as he assured Prime Minister Modi of his complete support in the fight against Covid-19.
In doing so, the Biju Janata Dal boss showed all how such important meetings should be conducted and how leaders across party lines can rise over political rivalries for the sake of the nation.