“Tackling Covid-19 is the biggest challenge of my political life”
Corona crisis brought out the real leadership and vision of the Karnataka Chief Minister Bhookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa, the 76-year-old mass leader of Karnataka. Notwithstanding his not-so good health, this stormy petral of Karnataka politics handled the crisis with his characteristic ease and elan. Due to effective and timely steps taken by the Karnataka government – all planning by Yediyurappa – Karnataka state was adjudged as the Second Best in handling the crisis and also remained one of the very few states which contained the spread of the virus. Yediyurappa spoke to Uday India and provided a blow-by-blow account of how he has been handling the crisis.
Karnataka was, perhaps, the first state to announce the lockdown of all Shopping Malls, theatres, night clubs, pubs, bars and restaurants and pruning of even private functions like
marriage engagements and naming ceremony following the outbreak of the dreaded Corona Virus, medically termed as Covid -19.
It was Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s visionary approach, grit and determination that enabled the bureaucracy to realise the gravity of the situation and get down to business of avoiding people from flocking in public places.
“Tackling Covid 19 is the biggest of my political career spanning for about five decades. But I am confident that we will come out in flying colours. This should make everyone of us – political leadership; bureaucracy; NGOs, religious institutions, social organisations and the people – to realise that we cannot leave anything to chance and we need to be eternally vigilant. This crisis also teaches us an important lesson – that we cannot afford to remain a soft society. We need to become hard to face crisis,” Yediyurappa said, while speaking to Uday India.
Two most important decisions that Yediyurappa took in the state’s fight against Covid 19 is to make Dr Sudhakar, the Minister for Medical Education, overall in-charge of tackling Corona crisis instead of B. Sreeramulu, the Minister for Health and Family Welfare and constituting a state-level task force headed by Dr Sudhakar.
The bureaucracy too accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion. The bureaucratic set-up headed by Chief Secretary M. Vijaybhaskar and BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar decided to set-up a War Room in the headquarters of the BBMP where Dr Sudhakar, BBMP Mayor Gautham Kumar and Anil Kumar were stationed monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.
Realising the need for a nodal officer to monitor and coordinate the multi-dimensional battle against Covid 19, Yediyurappa appointed Manjunath Prasad, senior IAS regarded as “an efficient and tough task-master” as the Nodal Officer.
The police –an important organ of the state government to handle the huge human crisis – too was geared up by Praveen Sood, the DG & IGP at the state level and by Bhaskar Rao, the Commissioner of Bangalore at the city level, by the range IGPs and District SPs.
But the all-important decision to announce holidays to schools and thereby postponing the examination was taken by S. Suresh Kumar, Minister for Primary Education, regarded and acknowledged even by the Opposition parties as a “sensitive and conscientious leader. Declaring holidays to schools and postponing of examination was a clear and distinct signal sent by the state government that it is going to a long-drawn battle in the state’s fight against an unprecedented crisis.
“What was very painful in the entire process is that the people were asked to stay put in their respective places when most of them had to move to their native places to celebrate Ugadi, one of the biggest festival that fell on March 25. We cancelled the buses and the Centre had cancelled the trains. But I appealed to the people that such hard decisions were necessary to save the people from getting afflicted by Corona,” Yediyurappa said.
While Karnataka government had declared lockdown on 22nd till 31st March, the Centre’s announced total lockdown for 21 days, starting 24th March following an televised appeal by the Prime Minister.
Yediyurappa being the mass leader who is aware of the plight of daily wage workers and labourers, he directed the administrative machinery to set-up make-shift camps and provide food. He also directed the Department of Food and Civil Supplies to provide Rice, Wheat, Ragi and cereals in higher quantity without any delay.
“Modi ji’s planning is meticulous; it is long-range vision; it is a human and humane decision. The slew of economic relief measures is concrete and meaningful which, by themselves, are touching. We are fortunate to have Modi ji at the helm of affairs at this time of humongous crisis that has engulfed the entire world,” Yediyurappa said.
Realising the need to maintain live contact with the Ministry of External Affairs and co-ordinate in order to bring back the Karnataka people stuck in foreign countries, Yediyurappa directed Shobha Karandlaje, MP from Udupi-Chickamagalur, regarded as pro-active and dynamic, parliamentarian, to closely work with the MEA. Shobha also took up the responsibility of providing relief materials to migrant labourers who had come to state from North Indian states.
Service of a different kind
“Let’s draw inspiration from Veer Savarkar who underwent solitary confinement at the Cellular Jail in Andamans and soldiers posted an Siachen Glacier. We are not stuck at home, we are safe at home”
Caronavirus brought the entire world to its knees. Billions have been undergoing suffering of various kinds. The governments, both Union and State, NGOs, spiritual organisations, voluntary associations have been providing food and ration kits to the distressed.
However, the continuous lockdown has had its adverse effect on the mental and psychological condition of the people who felt stressed and depressed. Staying at home with no meaningful physical exercise was telling on the psyche of the people.
It was at this time Bharathi Magdum, a 46-year old lady in Bangalore, realized the need to talk to people and do some psychological counselling. “I started calling my friends and others, almost 20 to 25 people every day and spoke to them. It was all morale boosting and motivational talk. They felt happy, that somebody from outside spoke to them,” Bharathi Magdum told UDAY INDIA. She has counselled about 1200 people over phone during the lockdown period.
According to Bharathi, the basic problem was that the people could not understand the meaning of lockdown and when they realized that they cannot go out to meet friends and relatives, they felt mentally sick.
“How can I stay at home without meeting friends and relatives, without going to temples, without going for shopping? These were the questions that bogged their mind. People simply went mad. But I had to speak to them, give them pep talk in order to make them realize the gravity of the situation,” Bharathi Magdum said.
What came to her advantage to treat the people who suffer from loneliness is the “knowledge” he had gained on account of her father sharing his experience in the Army.
“My father was in the Army. He used to recount how they used to beat the loneliness and boredom when they were posted in the border areas or Siachen Glacier. I also used to give the instance of Swatantra Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who was put in solitary confinement in the Cellular Jail at Andaman. How our soldiers work at Siachen Glacier without any comfort and away from the family members. My contention was that we need to take inspiration from them and move on,” Bharathi Magdum explained.
Bharathi told them how to make the best use of the time. Call friends; be with the family; play indoor games; try new cuisines; make experiment in dishes; play chess, carom; bring out old, traditional games such as chowka-bara, attagoolimane, pagade (dice) etc, etc. They could come to terms after some time and added, “Ultimately, I used to tell them, that we have been asked to stay at home with family and with all modern gadgets under our disposal. We have TV, mobile. We can mentally go round te world. We are not put in solitary confinement. The bottom line of her counseling was simple and effective; “We are not stuck at home; we are safe at home”
Conscientious of the fact that there is a need to provide relief to the embattled citizens, Yediyurappa announced three packages to all section and strata of society to the tune of Rs 2272 crores. “The relief cannot be cosmetic or symbolic. It had to be substantial, concrete and meaningful,” Yediyurappa said. Accordingly, he took care of the
interests of pot-makers, farmers, horticulture farmers, barbers, weavers, street-vendors, cooks and assistant cooks and purohits.
While the Department of Muzrai had made arrangements to provide ration kits to purohits/archakas and other staff working in the about 47,000 temples of all three grades A, B and C that benefitted about 2 lakh staff, Yediyurappa announced economic relief to the purohits/archakas of private temples also (that temples which do not come under Department of Muzrai) following an appeal by H.S. Sachidananda Murthy, Chairman of the Brahmin Development Board.
“The economic package relief announced by Yediyurappa touches all; encompasses all – it is Sarva Sparshi; Sarva Vyapi” said BJP general secretary Shobha Karandlaje. Shobha, on her part, in her individual capacity has been providing ration kits to thousands of labour from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and MP who are stranded in Bangalore and other places.
“Corona is a hydra-headed menace. The strategy to fight this crisis will have to be multi-dimensional. We are fighting under the guidance and leadership of Modi ji. We are confident that the country will emerge stronger in purpose and clearer in mind out of this crisis,” Yediyurappa signed off.
By S. A. Hemanth from Bengaluru