New Delhi: COVID-19 testing is "abysmally low" in Bihar, health infrastructure is in shambles and medical supplies procurement "very slow", Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav alleged on Monday. He asked the Nitish Kumar-led government to persuade the Centre to provide a special financial package to fight the pandemic.
Yadav also accused the state government of neglect and apathy towards returning migrant labourers from Bihar, many of whom walked back to their homes from other states in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In an interview with PTI, Yadav said the overall attitude of the state government on the pandemic so far has been to hope that "the fire will douse on its own".
Asked about the issue of Tablighi Jamaat members from Delhi posing a risk in Bihar, the Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly said the virus does not discriminate on the premise of religion, region, caste, creed, sex.
"If some individual or a group of people have violated the law, they should be punished regardless of their faith -- be it Tablighi Jamaat, Nizamuddin, or the stranded devotees at Majnu Ka Tila gurudwara in Delhi, BJP workers celebrating in Madhya Pradesh after the fall of the Congress government, worshipping devotees on Ram Navami, or the birthday celebrations of an MLA in Karnataka," he said.
"The government should identify them and I also appeal to those attendees to come out and report to authorities," he said.
Yadav attacked the Bihar government for not coming out with a plan to fight COVID-19 even after over a month and a half the pandemic broke out.
"Testing has been abysmally low, medical infrastructure hasn’t been scaled up, medical supplies are draining out and their procurement very slow," he alleged.
"You have seen how doctors and medical staff were making videos and getting them viral to get their demands fulfilled. Health infrastructure in Bihar is in shambles," the RJD leader claimed.
Food and rations were not reaching the needy, poor and vulnerable, Yadav said, urging the state government to reassess the gravity of the crisis and proactively deal with it.
At least 64 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Bihar with one death till now, according to health ministry data.
Slamming the state government for not coming to the rescue of hundreds of thousands of people from Bihar who walked down hundreds of miles to the state in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Yadav alleged that the Nitish Kumar dispensation was nowhere to be seen when the migrant workers needed a helping hand.
"It (state government) didn’t offer any sort of help to them in this humanitarian crisis. The apathy of Nitish ji towards these poor labourers is shocking," he said.
Yadav alleged that there were no facilities at all in quarantine places, like panchayat bhawans, schools or community centres at the village level.
The former Bihar deputy chief minister also said that his party has raised the demand for a special financial package as Bihar's resources are limited and the state government had not done much to diversify and scale up infrastructure?
COVID-19 crisis will cause unimaginable travails and could be an existential crisis for the poor and low income groups, he said.
"Being one of the most populous states, lowest on all SDG indices of the NITI Aayog and now this crisis of the century, Bihar legitimately needs an inclusive financial and medical package. I sincerely hope and support that this double engine government persuades the central government to get it," he said.
Yadav said the government should aggressively test more people and do contact tracing in the lockdown period so as to flatten the curve of the virus spread.
He alleged that the Nitish Kumar government had not utilised the last 40-45 days properly and without wasting more time it should now proactively work on a comprehensive plan for at least six months focused on the health, social and economic aspects of the crisis.
"We as a responsible opposition are ready to offer any assistance the government seeks from us. I am confident that a united Bihar will surely defeat COVID-19 and bounce back. Biharis will defeat this 'bimari', (disease)" he asserted.
On the efforts to help those in distress, Yadav said his party had set up 10 helpline numbers to help the migrant workers.