In a significant development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called up Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to get an overview of Maharashtra's war against the Coronavirus, an official said.
During the conversation, the PM lauded Thackeray's efforts and observed that the state has put up a good fight during the ongoing second wave of Covid-19, even as the Shiv Sena slammed Modi for the manner in which the Coronavirus crisis has been handled at the national level.
Thanking Modi, the CM appreciated his guidance in the state's Covid war right from the beginning and how the Centre had accepted certain suggestions given by Maharashtra.
Thackeray took the opportunity to request for more Central help and support in terms of critical needs like medical oxygen and apprised the PM on the state's plans to tackle the possible Covid-19 'third wave' expected to hit soon.
The PM's appreciation came at a time when a belligerent state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been repeatedly targeting the Maha Vikas Aghadi government's handling of the pandemic situation.
Interestingly, the Modi-Thackeray interlude came on day when the Shiv Sena's party newspapers 'Saamana' and 'Dopahar Ka Saamana' slammed the Centre for going ahead with the Central Vista project estimated to cost around Rs 13,000 crore in the midst of the pandemic.
"Small countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal have rushed aid to 'Atmanirbhar India'. The truth is that the country is surviving today only because of the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru-Indira Gandhi. But, Modi is not ready to stop work on the Central Vista project to construct a new Parliament building and a house for the Prime Minister spending thousands of crores of rupees," said the Saamana in stinging comments.
"The whole world is terrified of India now. There are all kinds of flights, trade and business restrictions which is hitting the country's economy. Yet, the country is trudging along because of the contributions of Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh and their visionary policies. It is time now for Modi to take steps in the interests of the country," said the Saamana's strong edits.
Modi's call came a day after Thackeray decided to form a special Covid Task Force on Pediatrics as the probable 'third wave' could hit children in a big way, especially since this category is not yet cleared for the vaccination drive.
Thackeray has also urged the PM to permit states to launch their own App to handle the vaccinations and they could be linked with the Centre's CoWin App to streamline the process.
"This will ensure better interface and experience for citizens who are really keen to take the vaccine shot," Thackeray said in a letter to Modi, which discussed the load on the App that leads to glitches or crashes.
The Maharashtra CM has also sought the Centre's green signal to purchase Covid-19 vaccines from manufacturers other than Serum Institute of India Ltd, Pune and Bharat Biotech International Ltd, Hyderabad.
"If the states are allowed to procure from other manufacturers as well, we would be able to cover a larger population in a shorter time to help reduce the impact of the possible third wave," Thackeray pointed out.
Both Modi and Thackeray also discussed the overall pandemic situation, the vaccination progamme and related issues in the country.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Maharashtra has emerged among the worst-hit in the country with a caseload of 49,96,758 which surpassed the infections of Turkey on Friday, with a total of 74,413 fatalities recorded till date, besides 654,788 'active cases' - just below France's 823,825 'active cases'.
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