PM holds five-hour-long meet with ministers over Covid

PM Modi holds five-hour-long meet with ministers over Covid-19 ahead of reshuffle

Modi is learnt to have impressed upon his ministerial colleagues to pace up the vaccination drive and reinforce Covid norms

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Credit: PTI Photo

Ahead of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday had a five-hour-long meeting with his Council of Ministers, the second in three months, which focused at length on the Covid-19 pandemic, the first major challenge before Narendra Modi-led NDA government in the last seven years.

Amid a growing chorus about apprehensions of a third wave of the pandemic, which is widely projected to affect the younger population more than others, Modi is learnt to have impressed upon his ministerial colleagues to pace up the vaccination drive and reinforce Covid norms even as the second wave is ebbing so that a fresh wave can possibly be prevented.

Member (Health) of NITI Aayog V K Paul made a presentation on the coronavirus pandemic during the meeting. The last meeting of the Union Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister was held on April 30, amid the rising second wave of Covid 19.

The second wave of Covid exposed the acute challenges before the health infrastructure in the nation which got bad press for Modi both at domestic and international fronts. 

Also read: Confident of getting EMA's approval for Covishield in a month: Adar Poonawalla

The government is keen to counter the criticism and the damage due to it soon more so as nearly half a dozen states including Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, go to state polls next year.

Significantly, Modi, during the meeting, also asked the ministers to ensure that the projects for which they have laid the foundations are completed and inaugurated by them.

A third wave could do the ruling BJP in and hence the entire government apparatus is being geared up to meet the challenge while the Opposition Congress has been breathing fire on the Centre.

Congress has already latched on to the Supreme Court order asking the government to grant compensation to the families of Covid-19 victims saying it is a "vindication" of its stance and has "exposed" the Centre's plan to abdicate its responsibility.

Also read: Covid death underreporting: Shortfall in reporting fatalities not new phenomenon in India, say SBI economists

Alleging that Modi has once again "failed" the nation by not standing with the families of Covid victims, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked him to immediately announce a "Covid Compensation Fund" with a relief of Rs 10 lakh to the families of the victims of Covid-19".

Modi on the other hand took to Twitter to flag how the loan guarantee scheme approved for Covid-affected sectors will provide additional financial support to key projects in various sectors, especially in healthcare and medical infrastructure.

The decision enables funding to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore to provide financial guarantee cover for brownfield expansion and greenfield projects related to health and medical infrastructure.

In the Council meeting, which could be a precursor to a comprehensive Cabinet reshuffle this month, Modi asked ministers to work hard and try to prevent a third wave by spreading awareness among people about vaccination and the importance of following Covid protocols.

Modi asked the ministers to aggressively counter vaccine hesitancy as well as the Opposition's campaign against the government on vaccination and overall Covid strategy. The focus on rural areas was also discussed in the meeting.

The meeting comes days after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a relief package. Government is keen that the message that the Centre is reaching out to all vulnerable sections during the pandemic is reached out to them in an effective manner as politics will kick up over pandemic in the coming months in the run-up to the polls.

The upcoming Cabinet reshuffle with link performance of the ministers on various counts including their role during the pandemic. There are nearly twenty vacancies in the Council of ministers and the Prime Minister may like to augment his team and reach out to various sections before the state polls.

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