Chandigarh, Aug 11 (IANS) Amid surge in Covid-19 cases and 50 per cent revenue decline for the first quarter of this fiscal in Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday sought from Prime Minister Narendra Modi a liberal financial package for states to fill the collection gap caused by the pandemic, and also flexibility on Covid-related terms of expenditure in the SDRF.
During a video conference meet of the Prime Minister with Chief Ministers of some states to review the situation, Amarinder Singh said the current cap of 35 per cent in State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) for Covid-19 related expenditure, as per MHA guidelines, is not sufficient to meet the current requirements.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also participated in the meeting.
The Chief Minister thanked the Government for India for accepting Punjab’s proposal to set up a National Institute of Virology for the north zone and said the state will soon give 25 acres of land in this regard.
Citing the state’s rising cases of Covid-19, which have gone up to 24,891 with 604 deaths, the Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to review the UGC decision on mandatory exams for exit classes to be held by September 30.
Punjab may not be in a position to conduct exams in September as it may be facing its peak at that time, he said, suggesting promoting these students promoted on past performance and internal assessment, with option to take exams later for those wanting to improve their performance.
He also sought the Central government assistance for online school education, especially for poor children of Class X and XII.
More money was needed for creating the infrastructure needed to support online education, he added.
Though Punjab was conducting 23,000 tests per million for coronavirus (higher than the national average), and planned to increase RT-PCR tests from 12,000 to 20,000 in the next 15 days, it needed to scale up the testing capacity further, the Chief Minister stressed.
He requested the Prime Minister to direct government of India institutions in Chandigarh and Punjab to increase testing capacity, as already written to him earlier.
Expressing concern over the state’s mortality rate of 2.4 per cent, Amarinder Singh said though it was lower than the all-India deaths per million and 91 per cent of the fatality cases were with co-morbidity, it was still higher than neighbouring Haryana.
Patients were coming to hospitals late and 86 per cent deaths were occurring in tertiary hospitals, he added.
Amarinder Singh also requested immediate operationalisation of Covid-19 testing and treatment at AIIMS in Bathinda, where OPDs are already functional, and said this will be useful for the people of southern Punjab.
Noting that the PGI Hospital in Chandigarh is a premier tertiary care facility for Punjab, he also sought increase in the bed capacity at the hospital and strengthening of the existing PGI Satellite Centre at Sangrur, especially for coronavirus treatment.
The Chief Minister further urged the Centre for immediate commencement of work on the newly sanctioned PGI Satellite Centre at Ferozepur.