Chandigarh: Senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala on Sunday hit out at the BJP-JJP coalition government in Haryana, saying it was in a hurry to get liquor factories running at a time when all its focus should have been in fighting COVID-19 and arming those who were at the forefront of this battle.
“The Khattar-Chautala government, whose aim should be welfare of 2.5 crore people of Haryana, is in a hurry to get liquor factories running, he said while addressing a press conference through video conference.
During the proposed extended period of lockdown, liquor shops are likely to be allowed to open as many chief ministers have strongly pitched for it arguing that it is a major revenue generating way for the states, sources had said on Saturday after a conference of state chief ministers with the PM.
Citing a circular from the Excise and Taxation Commissioner dated April 11, he said, The circular from the Excise and Taxation Commissioner (addressed to Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioners) says they are directed to ensure operations of distilleries, bottling plants– Indian Made Foreign Liquor, breweries, wineries situated in their districts are resumed with immediate effect.
(For wholesale and retail operation), the order then says this may be treated as a step in the direction of full scale operations of wholesale and retail licenses after the lockdown period is over, he said quoting from the order.
Surjewala, a former Haryana Minister, said in the lockdown period, priority of this government should be fighting the coronavirus, arming our doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, police personnel, safai karamcharis and essential services employees with personal protection equipment, N-95 masks and other gear and not bothering to start distilleries with immediate effect .
Is the government working for welfare of the people of Haryana or are they working for profiteering of liquor distillery owners and wholesale and retail liquor operators. That’s a question they need to answer, he said.
Surjewala said that earlier too the state government had shut down liquor vends in the state from March 27 after heavy criticism from people and the opposition for keeping the outlets open despite a nationwide lockdown to check spread of COVID-19.
Claiming that bootlegging was going on despite the entire state being under lockdown, he said it indicates a failure of the ruling dispensation on the law and order front.
Haryana police had last week said that it had launched a crackdown against bootleggers and arrested 449 people for involvement in illegal storage/transportation/sale of liquor and over 1 lakh bottles of illicit liquor had been seized during the lockdown period.
The Congress leader also voiced concern over fewer COVID tests being carried out, saying on an average only 51 tests were being conducted per day in a state having population of over 2.5 crore, which indicates failure of the government.
To fight the corona pandemic, testing is key to prevention.. but I am deeply saddened that the Khattar government is neither comprehending nor understanding the gravity of the issue, he said.
He said that out of over 25,000 people who had been put on surveillance, as per government’s own medical bulletin, only 3,663 have been tested in 71 days between February 1-April 12.
Reports of over 1,000 people who have been tested is still awaited, he said.
We are all together with the Khattar government in fighting the coronavirus, but they need to pull up their socks and get their act together and not leave the people of Haryana at the mercy of God, he said.
Meanwhile, he claimed that while the Centre has recommended use of sodium hypochlorite for disinfecting of public places, the state government was using bleaching powder, which is not enough even to kill mosquitoes .
He said that if Congress workers can use sodium hypochlorite spray in Kaithal and Narwana the government should have also used it to disinfect public places across the state.