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Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has a lot to defend. He has to defend the Garo Hills District Council scam, the illegal mining and transportation of coal and now the Covid expense of Rs 399 crore. About the Covid expense, the CM has rightly stated that it is easy to sit on the sidelines and find fault with everything that Government does. Indeed, only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. And those in Government know exactly how the Covid funds have been invested. Sometimes it is easy to forget that Government made remittances to those that were stranded in different parts of the country so that they keep body and soul together until there was a possibility for them to return. This is where the problem arises. While it is agreed that migrant workers with pitiable salaries and needing to sustain themselves after they have lost their jobs should be legitimately assisted, what is not understood is why those who have left the state to study outside and are mostly the children of government employees have to be paid stipends by the State Government or why they had to be provided transport free of cost between Guwahati and Shillong and also stay at quarantine centres free of cost. It’s almost like the state was encouraging freeloading.
Granted that Covid tests should be done free of charge because that is a duty of the state. But why should people in quarantine centres who have the capability to pay for their food and stay at a nominal price not be charged? The coronavirus is a new phenomenon and no one had a readymade action plan for tackling the virus. It was mostly trial and error. The Government has learnt on hindsight how it could have handled things better; what it should have done; what went wrong and what needs course correction.
The comparison between the expenses incurred by the Government of Manipur and that of the Meghalaya Government is absurd because the details of how the former managed its Covid funds are not known. The Chief Minister claims that facilities at CHCs and PHCs have been strengthened and testing centres increased. If this has happened it is a much needed reinforcement because the status of most CHCs, PHCs and Sub-centres is abysmal. In fact strengthening rural health care facilities and investments in public healthcare is urgently needed. Meghalaya’s high maternal and infant mortality are mainly due to lack of facilities in the PHCs and CHCs which do not have basic diagnostic and other equipment needed for complicated deliveries. As a result most women in labour have to come to Shillong, thereby resulting in overcrowding of hospitals. Hence any investment in health infrastructure is money well spent.
Citizens who need detailed information on Covid spending can get it via RTI but why can the Government not make public the expenditure break-up? That’s called transparency!