To ensure a 'comprehensive victory' over the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre should provide financial packages to states in proportion to the number of coronavirus cases and the propensity for further spread of the infection, Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot said on Wednesday.
Pilot also said a decision on whether the lockdown should be lifted or not following the 21-day period should be taken after consultation with the states, medical experts and scientists, and if it is lifted, it should be done in stages.
The lockdown across the country was imposed from March 25 to prevent the spread of the virus.
In an interview to PTI, he said Rajasthan managed to have limited success in containing the virus as it acted fast and reached out to people not just in cities and towns, but also in villages.
Pilot, who holds the rural development and panchayati raj portfolio, said Rajasthan was one of the first states to get sodium hypochlorite sprayed in rural areas and so far, 38,000 villages out of a total of 46,000 have been disinfected.
"Every single panchayat has been given Rs 50,000 to procure masks and hand sanitizers. This was done early to prevent panic buying and stopping the rural population from rushing to urban areas to procure them," he said.
The Rajasthan deputy chief minister said in order to ensure that the most vulnerable sections of society are able to sustain themselves, it is important that states are given dedicated financial packages.
"For us to be able to have a comprehensive victory over the coronavirus challenge, states will have to be assisted with dedicated financial packages," he said.
"I think what should be done is that every state-specific resource allocation should be done in proportion to the spread of the infection, according to the propensity for further spread and the states present capacities to meet the crisis. We can extrapolate the data scientifically. Every state government must be given a package as the economic activity has almost come to a halt," Pilot said.
State-specific financial packages depending on resources, capacity, infection rate and future roadmap is the need of the hour, he said.
Asked about the Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package that the central government had announce last month, Pilot said that was a pan-India relief and a national announcement, but states have to be given the wherewithal to take care of patients and fight the pandemic.
"If you look at any country in the world, the percentage of GDP deployed to fight this virus, India is still behind in that," he said.
He said the Centre's package was a macro level announcement, but states need to be given financial support to combat and defeat the COVID-19.
On whether the lockdown should be extended, Pilot said a 'one size fits all solution' was not possible as India is a very diverse country with different geographical and social conditions.
"So, what might work in Meghalaya or Manipur may not work in Puducherry or Kerala," he said.
Noting that there was still a week to go for the 21-day lockdown to end, he said there was time to take a considered and a well thought out view on it.
"It is a tough decision to make, it boils down to lives versus livelihood and both are important. I don't think the infection has peaked and we cannot afford to make the same mistakes like the US or western European countries have made," he said.
"I think that the decision should be taken with full consultation from all the states, scientific community and medical experts must be involved and whatever decision once we take, all of us should stand by it. We must fight this challenge as one nation and one people," Pilot said, adding that there was no point speculating on it.
Pilot, who is also the Congress state unit chief, said the party workers have been on the ground and using technology to reach out to vulnerable sections in the state.
"We have a control room at my residence in Jaipur and in every district headquarter, DCC chiefs from their own homes are serving as a bridge between the administration and the government and all those who have been left out, Congress office bearers are trying to help them," he said.
Pilot said it was the state's quick response that is helping it contain the pandemic as seen in Bhilwara and other areas.
"We were the first state in India to go in for a lockdown. We moved quickly and that is why we were able to get some initial success in containing the virus, of course the numbers are now more than 300, but we have worked on many fronts simultaneously," he said.
He said on one hand the state government deployed doctors, paramedics, health workers, and on the other ensured that the supply chain for essential commodities was maintained.
"We were quite strict in enforcing the curfew. So wherever there was an infection we imposed curfew in the 2km radius. As of now we have 38 places where there is a curfew in Rajasthan besides the lockdown in the entire state," he said.