Union minister for transport and MSMEs, Nitin Gadkari, is shaping the government’s response to distress in the MSME sector as a consequence of the lockdown prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In a Q&A with Prerna Katiyar over email, he responds to key concerns of the sector. Edited excerpts:


Does the sharp rise indicate community transmission in Gujarat?


There is no community transmission in Gujarat. If people in Gujarat as well as in the whole country will continue giving their support then we will never reach that stage. If people keep following the lockdown rules and government-issued guidelines with full devotion, the risk of community transmission in India will be negligible. I would say the same for Gujarat.

What were the reasons for imposing curfew in Ahmedabad and Surat?

We decided to impose curfew in the walled city of Ahmedabad because there were a high number of cases in the region, and we estimated more cases to emerge from the region, especially after the Tablighi Jamat incident in Delhi. Most of the cases in Ahmedabad are from the walled city, especially after the identification of those who attended the Jamat. Curfew was imposed in Surat to avoid crowding in certain areas. After the protest by migrant workers, we found it necessary to ensure complete restriction of movement to prevent possible eruption of cases. While you term Curfew for Ahmedabad and Surat, I call it ‘Care for You’.

What will the government do to stop migrants from returning home?

We have already resumed the factories and industries outside limits of municipalities and municipal corporations enabling workers to resume work. At the same time, we have directed the factory owners to provide necessary accommodation within their units to restrict movement. At present, around 40,000 industrial units have re-started in the state employing more than 5 lakh labourers.

Even during the lockdown, we had ensured provision of essential items to workers and migrant labourers. I ensured that the workers are not fired from their jobs and that they are provided with remuneration amidst lockdown as well.

People will need to take extra precautions for another 2-3 months even after the lockdown. Considering this, I am constantly in touch with health experts and senior officials in order to find ways and devise strategies so that people continue to maintain social distancing, wear masks after the lockdown is lifted. The state government will continue to ensure the well-being of migrant workers till the crisis is completely eliminated from Gujarat. I am quite confident that they will stay back and continue to work especially once the the cases start decreasing.

What is the government doing for farmers who are facing hardships?

Our farmers have indeed faced difficulties amidst the lockdown. Apart from reopening our APMCs, we provided farmers an advance of Rs 2,000 under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana totalling Rs 800 crore. We have given a two-month extension on their short-term loans, the interest for the extended period being borne by us. Farmers sowing and harvesting crops have been given special permissions amidst lockdown. We have ensured coordination at the district level so that the farmers who transport materials and harvest do not face issues with the police. We will start the purchase of Rabi crops at MSP from April 27, 2020.

There are reports of segregation of Hindu and Muslim patients in Ahmedabad civil hospital. Is it true?

Gujarat government has been working tirelessly with the mantra of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ for the past decade and a half. The pandemic does not discriminate on someone’s religion or caste. The segregation at hospitals is done and wards are specified on the basis of age, gender, medical history and severity of Covid-19 infection. Such allegations of discrimination are completely baseless.

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