Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has constantly been blaming “Jamaatis” for spreading the novel coronavirus in the state. The numbers, however, have a different tale to tell.
According to data provided by the State Health Department, till April 29, less than four per cent of the total COVID-19 patients in the state were members of the Tablighi Jamaat. “Out of 2,316 patients in the state, 87 are jamaatis, accounting for 3.75% of the total number,” said Health Commissioner Faiz Ahmed Kidwai.
In the week gone by, MP saw a significant jump in COVID-19 cases, from 2,316 to 3,138 cases, as per the state health bulletin of May 6, 2020. State officials confirmed that members of the Jamaat had nothing to do with the sharp rise in numbers.
Talking to several media platforms, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan claimed that MP had few cases of COVID-19 initially, which were mainly from Jabalpur. He said however that a rapid rise in the number of cases from Indore and Bhopal resulted in the overall increase, laying the blame on members of the Jamaat.
“Tablighi Jamaat members of Madhya Pradesh who joined this event in Delhi, came back and scattered into many corners and prime areas of the state. They are also the reason for this sudden rise as they responded reluctantly and did not come forward willingly and thus indirectly spread it among others,” he reportedly said.
Newly appointed State Health Minister Narottam Mishra and BJP State President V.D. Sharma made similar claims as well. They also blamed the previous 15-month-old Kamal Nath government for its unpreparedness. The government fell after 22 Congress legislators turned to the BJP and former CM Nath resigned on March 20.
The offices of the Chief Medical Health Officers (CMHO) of Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain and Jabalpur, cities which accounted for 80 % of the total cases in MP, however, denied the ‘Jamaati’ connection, contrary to claims made by the CM, Health Minister and the BJP State president.
Among the recent spike in cases, four people from Indore tested positive for COVID-19, Bhopal had 20 while Ujjain had none. There was no Jamaat connection in the latest spike in figures, the CMHOs of the concerned districts said, mentioning that the Jamaat members in Bhopal and Indore had recovered.
The top eight red-zone districts of the state, which have more than 50 cases, include Indore (1681), Bhopal (605), Ujjain (184), Jabalpur (109), Khargone (80), Khadwa (50), Raisen (63) and Dhar (76). Only Khadwa, Raisen and Khargone have a few members of the Jamaat left as patients, said a Health Department official.
Top nine districts with highest COVID-19 cases (As of May 06, 2020)
After the Delhi Markaz incident came to the fore, the Union Government sent a list of 108 people who attended the religious gathering and had returned to Madhya Pradesh, to the state government. The state government had immediately kept them in quarantine and a majority of them have recovered, claimed a Heath Department official.
As cases of COVID-19 began to rise in the state and a section of the media and the Congress party began attacking the BJP, CM Chouhan started laying the blame on the previous government for its unpreparedness in tackling the pandemic and on the Tablighi Jamaat for the rise in numbers, the state Congress unit claimed.
Former Minister and State Congress media in-charge Jitu Patwari said: “Chief Minister Chouhan and the BJP is playing the blame game just to hide their failure in controlling the pandemic, even after more than a month in power.”
Patwari said that the BJP first created political unrest in the State by taking 22 of their MLAs to Bengaluru, including the Health Minister, with the aim of toppling the Government during the pandemic. “CM Kamal Nath had announced a slew of measures to tackle the novel coronavirus, including giving out two months of ration to the poor. Secondly, after taking oath, CM Chouhan was busy luring their own leaders who had recently turned the court and transfer posting of officials appointed during the Congress regime,” said Patwari, adding that when the situation begin to deteriorate, the Government started shifting the blame towards the Congress and members of the Jamaat.
Jaswinder Singh, the CPI (M) General Secretary for Madhya Pradesh, said that the data proved that the CM and the Health Minister were lying and trying to hide their failure in controlling the pandemic in the State.
“As the situation started deteriorating in MP and the state government began drawing criticism from various quarters, the CM, Health Minister and the BJP state chief laid the blame on members of the Jamaat for the sudden jump. They also targeted the unpreparedness of the previous Congress regime, just to divert attention. Aside from that, as the issue of a backlog in the number of cases was raked up by the media, the state government begin to hide data and allegedly started manipulating it,” Singh said.
Public health expert Amulya Nidhi challenged the state government’s claim and said that the data proved that the CM and ministers’ claim was untrue. “If they are not lying, the government should prove it. Else, they should not make such unproven claims just to hide their failure,” he said.
“The state has not taken punitive action to prevent the pandemic like acquiring private labs, private hospitals, distributing free masks and increasing the number of tests,” claimed Nidhi. “The government should take full responsibility for the failure and should work promptly to address it,” Nidhi added.
Despite several attempts, state BJP Chief V.D. Sharma could not be reached for a comment.