NCP MP Supriya Sule on Monday urged Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to announce policy incentives to encourage investments in the collapsed health sector. Sule in her tweet mentioned how the country is witnessing ‘an unprecedented pandemic’ but the country’s health infrastructure is being exposed as inadequate to tackle the challenge.
In her three-page letter listing 15 policy suggestions, Sule drew Nirmala Sitharaman’s attention to the heart-wrenching scenes witnessed outside hospitals where patients struggle to find beds or are dying gasping for oxygen.
Sule stressed that the Centre could set up an online platform to publish the list of equipment and medicines with specifications and costs, and hospitals could respond with their demands on the same platform and people could make online contributions or place orders through the e-market, she suggested.
She called for GST exemptions to life-saving drugs and medical equipment to encourage their domestic production.
Sule also urged Maharashtra Chief MInister Uddhav Thackeray to craft a fire prevention and control policy. In the backdrop of recent hospital fires in Bhandup and Virar which killed several COVID-19 patients. The NCP MP took to Twitter and posted the letter saying: “The recent incidents of fire in hospitals have resulted in the loss of life and damage to property. Hon. Uddhav Thackeray Ji list of policy suggestions for your perusal is added below like establishing strong institutions and standard protocols; For the prevention and containment of different types of fires and requesting you to set up a Maharashtra Fire Control Force.”
WHAT’S IN THE LETTER?
1. The recent incidents of fire in hospitals at Bhandara and Bhandup, and the Fashion Street Market of Pune Cantonment have resulted in the loss of life and damage to property. Forest fires and fires on standing crops such as sugarcane have become common across the state. Our government must establish strong institutions and standard protocols for the prevention and containment of different types of fires.
2. The Maharashtra Assembly had enacted the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006 that sets provisions and established institutions to contain the fire. Today each Municipal Corporation / Council and metropolitan regional development authorities have set up their fire brigades for urban and peri-urban areas. There are no fire brigades with Zilha Parishads or Grain Panchayats for rural areas. Forest Department maintains a limited number of firefighting engines to contain forest fires. There is also no standardization in the implementation of fire audit protocols across the state and in the places that have fire brigades, they are understaffed and their officials are poorly trained. The upkeep of equipment is poor due to small budgets and competing priorities in urban local bodies. I urge your government to empower the Director of Fire and raise a Maharashtra State Fire Force.
3. The position of Director of Fire Safety could be upgraded to the rank and scale of a departmental Commissioner and be made a cadre post of the Indian Administrative Service at Junior Administrative Grade. The Director could report to The Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra, Relief & Rehabilitation Department. The Directorate could consist of officials drawn from Departments of Town Planning, Municipal Administration, Rural Development, Accounts & Treasury, and Forest Departments. The Directorate could be given the responsibilities of implementing the unified DCPS Rules concerning fire safety, empanelment of agencies to conduct fire audits, centralized filing of fire audit reports of buildings and industries, collection of annual tariffs that are levied by local bodies for fire safety and creating awareness about fire safety.
Maharashtra Fire Control Force could be headed by an officer of the Indian Police Services Cadre of the rank and scale of Director General of Police by adding more responsibility to the position of DG(Civil Defense). All the Fire Brigades in the state could be brought under his command. A state-level control room could be set up on the lines of 108 Ambulance Service for quick and adequate response in case of fire. The uniformed force could consist of an Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Forest Fires), Inspector General of Police (Industrial Fires), Deputy Inspector General of Police (Training), regional Deputy/ Assistant Inspector Generals of Police in each metropolitan regions, and police ranges. A state cadre of Commandants at the rank and scale of Dy Superintendent of Police and Assistant Commandants at the rank and scale of Police Inspectors could be created first based on the nomination to the new cadre from existing Municipal, Forest and Police Cadres; and over some time through direct recruitment by Maharashtra Public Service Commission. All personnel currently providing fire services in various departments, local bodies, metropolitan or industrial development authorities could all become personnel of this force. Police Patils, Civil Defense, and Gram Suralchsa Dal volunteers could be given basic training and simple firefighting equipment to enable them to immediately respond and also to contain minor fires.
5. The financial resources generated through empanelment fees of agencies authorized to conduct fire safety audits, filing of fire safety audit reports, material certification of fire safety equipment; and cess on fees for building permission, occupancy certificate, and property tax could be used for meeting the capital and operational expenses of Maharashtra Fire Control Force and the Fire Safety Directorate. We could propose to the Union Government to enact policies that mandate compulsory Fire Insurance for certain types of buildings. Once the Maharashtra Fire Control Force is established, we could seek a share in the premiums collected on Fire insurance.
6. Expenses on raising the Maharashtra Fire Control Force would be low as the proposed force would be taking over the manpower and the capital assets of existing Fire Brigades across the state. The proposed posts of All India and State cadres could be created after a cadre review to identify under-utilized positions such that no new positions have to be created & also there is an increase in the utilization of existing officials. Some new positions among the fire-fighters would have to be created to overcome the problems of the non-existence of fire brigades in rural areas and understaffing in various existing fire brigades.
7. Due to climate change, the ambient air temperature has risen and soil moisture has fallen resulting in a marked increase in incidents of fire in forests and standing crops. Maharashtra is a manufacturing hub and such industries have an inherent risk of fare. Centralized forces for specialized services have resulted in marked improvement in such services to the citizens. A state-level organization is better placed to procure the latest technologies and larger equipment and make it available to each part of the state. It would also be in a better position to enforce rules and regulations.
8. The proposed policy on prevention and control of foes would generate several new employments for our youth as firefighters, and spawn several new enterprises in fire audit services & manufacturing of fire safety equipment. In the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, Kurkumbh MIDC being a chemical hub could attract investments in the manufacturing of fire safety products.
9. I request you to expeditiously implement this proposal that would systematically prevent loss of lives and damage to property due to fire.
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CONGRESS’ PERFORMANCE IN ASSEMBLY POLLS VERY DISAPPOINTING: SONIA GANDHI
Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday termed her party’s performance in the recently-concluded assembly polls as “very disappointing” and said the party “must learn appropriate lesson” from the setback in the spirit of humility and honesty. Addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, Gandhi said Congress Working Committee will meet shortly to review the results. She also termed the party’s performance as “unexpected”.
“Most unfortunately, our own performance in all the states was very disappointing and if I may say, unexpectedly so. The CWC is meeting shortly to review the results but it goes without saying that we as a party collective must draw the appropriate lessons from this setback in a spirit of humility and honesty,” she said.
Gandhi also congratulated Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and DMK chief MK Stalin for their “handsome victories”.
Congress suffered defeats in Assam and West Bengal and could not open its account in West Bengal where it had won over 40 seats in 2016 polls. The Congress could win only two seats in Puducherry where it was in power about two months back. Only in Tamil Nadu, the party gave a credible performance as part of the DMK-led alliance which swept to power, defeating the AIADMK-led alliance.
The Congress-led Mahajot was the main challenger to the ruling BJP-led NDA in Assam and Congress-led UDF to the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala. While NDA returned to power in Assam, the LDF returned to power in Kerala.
WITH ANI INPUTS
WB moves SC seeking direction to disband current vaccination policy
The Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government on Friday moved to the Supreme Court seeking direction to disband the current Covid-19 vaccination policy and bring in uniform vaccination policy by doing away with the differential pricing mechanism. Disband the “Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of Covid-19 Vaccination” policy and adopt and implement a uniform policy of procuring 100 percent doses of Covid-19 which can be equitably distributed to the States and Union Territories for free de-centralized distribution,” the plea said.
Earlier, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting free Covid vaccination for all citizens. “I firmly believe that this battle against Covid will be won with coordinated and collaborative efforts of all stakeholders in augmenting infrastructure and an earnest drive for universal vaccination free of cost. I am looking forward to your kind cooperation in this regard. With regards,” stated Mamata in the letter to the Prime Minister.
She had also slammed the PM for not receiving any reply from him over her letter regarding the free Covid-19 vaccination for all citizens. “I have not got any reply till now from PM Modi over the issue of free vaccination. He must be busy,” Mamata said. The third phase of the vaccination drive commenced on May 1 making everyone above the age of 18 eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The Covid vaccine manufacturing companies are empowered to release up to 50 per cent of their supply to state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price. The Covid-19 situation in India continues to deteriorate amid the second wave of coronavirus infections.
With a total of 4,14,188 new Covid-19 cases being recorded in the last 24 hours, India again reported its highest single-day spike on the second consecutive day. With this, the cumulative count of cases in the country reached 2,14,91,598, informed Union Health Ministry.
Ministry requests states, UTs to prioritise beneficiaries of 2nd dose of vaccine
The Union Health Ministry on Friday requested all the states and Union Territories to prioritise the beneficiaries of the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. “From the side of the Union Health Ministry, we requested all the states/ UTs to prioritise the beneficiaries of the second dose and ensure the timely completion of the recommended vaccination schedule,” Additional Secretary (Health) Arti Ahuja said during a media briefing.
The Ministry also urged that the states / UTs to use the vaccines received by them through the ‘Government of India channel’ in 70:30 ratio for the second dose and the first dose respectively. “Secondly, utilise the supplies of the vaccines through the Government of India channel in the 70:30 ratio for the second dose and the first dose respectively and do a regular review of the coverage of the vaccination drive,” said Ahuja.
The Ministry also said that so far, a total of 16.50 crore doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered across all categories.
“Among the Healthcare workers, so far, 0.95 crore doses have been administered for the first dose and 0.64 crore doses have been given as the second dose. Similarly, for the frontline workers, 1.38 crore doses for the first dose and 0.75 crore doses for the second dose have been given,” the Additional Secretary (Health) said.
Virat and Anushka start a Covid fundraiser, donate Rs 2 crore
As India battles with the Covid-19 pandemic, several Bollywood celebrities and cricketers have come forward and shown their support by raising funds or providing oxygen concentrators and food essentials.
After Sachin Tendulkar, Pat Cummins, the Indian Cricket Team Skipper Virat Kohli and his actress wife Anushka Sharma are raising funds for providing help during the Covid pandemic.
Virat and Anushka have started a fundraiser for Covid-19 relief work in India and have requested their fans to donate to the fund. The couple has donated Rs 2 crore.
Virat and Anushka took to their respective social media handles and posted about the fundraiser for the people of India. Anushka said, “India is going through an extremely difficult time and the second wave of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic has pushed our country to a state of crisis. It is time for all of us to come together and do our bit for our fellow countrymen who are in serious need of support. Virat and I have been hugely pained looking at the inexplicable suffering that people are going through and we hope that this fund will aid in our fight against the virus that we are all helplessly witnessing. We are praying for everyone’s safety. We hope that you join us in our prayers to save as many lives as possible because we are all in this together. #InThisTogether”
Virat said, “We are going through an unprecedented time in the history of our country and our nation needs all of us to unite and save as many people as possible. Anushka and I have been shocked to see human suffering since last year. We have been working towards helping as many people as possible all through the pandemic and now, India wants our support more than ever. We are starting this fundraiser with the confidence that we will be able to raise substantial funds to aid those in dire need. We are confident that people will come forward to support fellow countrymen in crisis. We are in this together and we shall overcome this. #InThisTogether” The couple has collaborated with Ketto for raising funds.
WHO APPROVES CHINESE VACCINE FOR EMERGENCY USE
GENEVA: The World Health Organization approved the emergency use of the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine, Sinopharm, on Friday. It’s the first Chinese vaccine to receive WHO’s approval, although it is already being used in several poor countries. There is not much data about how effective Sinopharm is, however, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference that the Chinese vaccine had received WHO’s validation of “safety, efficacy and quality”.
SC REFUSES TO INTERFERE IN CENTRAL VISTA PROJECT
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday urged the Delhi High Court to consider the PIL filed seeking a stay on the construction work of the Central Vista project in the national capital and asked the High Court to issue orders related to the matter. An apex court bench comprising Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari on Friday heard the petition for the Special Leave Petition filed by the petitioner. The SC heard the plea and has requested the Delhi HC to consider it and pass orders stating that the matter involves extreme urgency.
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