AIMIM chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi spoke to TNM on the COVID-19 situation in Telangana, and admitted that he was unhappy about the testing numbers.

Hyderabad MP and AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi speaking in front of a mic
news Interview Tuesday, July 14, 2020 - 20:26

In an interview to TNM, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi spoke about various issues ranging from Telangana’s low testing to concerns over Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao being missing in action amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are excerpts from the interview.

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate India’s method and strategy of tackling COVID-19?

Where is the method and strategy? We acted in haste and we are repenting in leisure now. Even for madness there should be a method. There is no method. It took four hours to implement lockdown and eight days to leave the lockdown. We didn’t ramp up medical facilities and healthcare for such a pandemic to be tackled. Numbers have increased and we are in the middle of a huge problem now.

 2) So far, Telangana has carried out around 1.8 lakh tests. What is your assessment of the testing being carried out?

I have been saying since day 1, be it in my state of Telangana or anywhere else in the country, I have reiterated what health experts have been saying. Testing is very important to tackle this virus and to get down the numbers in terms of fatalities and also controlling the virus. I am a firm believer of testing. I want more tests to be done. This is why I have reiterated this to the state government, I also met the Health Minister and conveyed to him that we need to increase testing. I have requested them to increase the testing capacity. Only 250-300 per day are being carried out, it needs to be increased to 1000 and the number of centres need to be increased to five or six. Antigen testing numbers also need to be increased. Right now only around 50-60 tests are being done in a day, it needs to be increased to 200 tests per day at least. This is very important for my constituency.

3) Will it be right to say that you are disappointed?

I want more testing to be done. I am not really satisfied with the testing centres and their numbers. I will be satisfied if the RT-PCR testing is increased, number of centres are increased and more antigen testing numbers are increased.

4) As a person who never minces his words, in regards to COVID-19, the Telangana government was questioned by all sections except by you. Do you think the government has handled COVID-19, the right way?

When you speak about handling of COVID-19, in the initial months of March and April the entire (contact) tracing that was done was fantastic. The entire administration, police department had done a fantastic job and they need to be given credit for that. The corporate hospitals were not even admitting COVID-19 patients, at such a time the government hospitals not only treated them but also gave dialysis to a COVID-19 patient. A gynaecology ward was started for pregnant COVID-19 women. These are efforts that we must appreciate. Now that private hospitals are treating, complaints are pouring in about how expensive it is. Until mid May, it was the government hospitals that treated all the patients. Yes, I am not satisfied as far as testing is concerned. Efforts are still being put in by the government. If the government is not performing everyone will criticize, including me. But, how can I close my eyes to the human service that was done in Gandhi Hospital? I speak to all the hospital Superintendents, as far as government hospitals are concerned, they have done good work. But as far as public relations is concerned, they are completely lacking in that. Private hospitals are charging huge amounts of money, despite the government fixing charges, this is happening.

5) Don’t you think it is the failure of the government that it is not being able to execute its decision of capping the charges in private hospitals?

This is a reality everywhere in India. I will not call it a failure. Why would I call it a failure? The government should go after these private hospitals. If that happens, there shouldn’t be protests that the government is clamping down on private hospitals. The government hospitals must be supported. If any mistakes have happened over there they have happened, I am not denying that. We should forcibly correct it. Medical expenses are the biggest cause of poverty in India. The government hospital’s good stories are not coming out and that is for the government to decide about how they want to bring out those positive public stories. 

6) There was a campaign called as #WhereIsKCR. Do you think the Chief Minister not being seen in public affects the confidence of the common man?

How is that possible? How can the Chief Minister be missing? What do you mean the CM was not to be seen? When you say he wasn’t seen, does it mean he is not running the government? That cannot be possible. He is the Chief Minister of the day. The bureaucracy, ministers speak to him, he speaks to them, the government is implementing the policies. If the right wing wants to run this sort of campaign on social media, do you think people will believe it? How can you say CM is missing? CM is there. Should I tell you how many times I have spoken to him? Should some MLA say? He’s there, his ministers are there, the Chief Secretary is there, the DGP and the Commissioner are there. Is this a cricket match where he needs to be on the field? He is there and he is monitoring everything.

7) The Kerala CM speaks to the media on a daily basis, do you think that kind of connect is lacking in Telangana?

Please don’t compare Kerala with any state in India. Kerala has strengthened its health system from top to bottom. The facilities and the way it is executed is exceptional. It is a very good example to be given. Even CM KCR has addressed a lot of press conferences. I cannot talk for the CM.

8) If you were the CM of the state, what is the one thing that you would have done differently in handling the situation?

I know my limitations and I know my aims and objectives of my political life and being the CM is not one of them.

9) There is a tendency to always compare the Telugu states. Andhra Pradesh has done ten times the testing that Telangana has done. Do you think they are way ahead in terms of tackling the pandemic?

In terms of testing, their numbers are very high, no one can deny that. In the last 10 days, the testing has definitely gone up in Telangana and I hope it goes up even more.

10) Chandrayangutta MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi had demanded around 20 days ago that 20,000 tests should be done in the Hyderabad parliamentary constituency. Do you believe the government has the willpower to fulfill this demand?

From June 16 until last Thursday (July 9), 5200 samples have been tested in Charminar Unani Hospital alone. They have also tested in the Golconda area hospital. It is paused for some time, and will be opened again. They are testing in King Koti hospital which also falls in Hyderabad parliamentary constituency. Testing is being done in Sarojini Eye Hospital in Mehdipatnam, though geographically it lies in Secunderabad parliament constituency. The numbers are there, 5200 from one centre. So, I feel we will cross 20,000 overall. But I am not satisfied with even 20,000. 

11) Your MLA and your party had raised concerns last year that the demolition of the Telangana Secretariat could damage religious structures in the premises. Despite this, there have been damages during the demolition recently. Do you agree that your party’s pleas were ignored?

Firstly, it isn’t a religious structure it is a place of worship called a masjid. It has been there since the Nizam era. It is a masjid registered in the Waqf and the Waqf gazette has been issued by the government saying it is a registered Waqf property. Not only our MLA but also our floor leader, Akbaruddin Owaisi raised the issue in the Assembly that we are not against development and having a new Secretariat but please protect these registered Waqf masjids but also other places of worship as well. This has been our consistent demand. It is very unfortunate and heart-breaking that these masjids have been demolished. This has caused anger and anguish and many Muslims are upset but a timely statement was made by the CM. We have demanded that the contractor who has demolished the masjids need to be booked and arrested and at the same place where these Masjids stood, they should be rebuilt. As these are Waqf properties they are given protection under the Waqf Act of 1995 and the government is duty bound as it is the government that needs to protect them. 

12) Well, I would like to repeat the second part of my question about whether your party’s pleas were ignored.

I don’t know where the pleas fell, but the Masjid did fall. It has been demolished.

13) The CM has offered to construct a more spacious masjid in the premises of the Secretariat. Will you accept this?

Once a masjid, always a masjid. Our demand is that the Masjid should be constructed at the original location as it is a registered Waqf property. We hope and expect that the CM will fulfill it.

 

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