The Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s daily presser on Covid-19 has been different on several counts. As an administrator, it is duty-bound to give daily updates on the state of affairs of how the state is responding to the needs arising out. However, Vijayan stands out not only for his clarity of thoughts and politically sensitive approach but also to the issues that are marginalized at times of a disaster.
He had asked the local self-governments in the state to take care of the stray dogs that are not fed due to lockdown and also told the temple committees to feed monkeys that too suffer the brunt of a lockdown. Vijayan’s approach of dealing with the crisis has been hailed during the deluge of 2018 and now winning the hearts for its inclusivity.
In a presser a few days ago he announced a call-based system for the distribution of food packets through the 1,000 community kitchens opened at different parts of the state. He said that people would feel uncomfortable to ask others for food and hence contacting through phones would be helpful.
The chief minister had also commented on the mental health issues arising due to the non-availability of liquor as state-run outlets and bars are shut. He said that the people who consume liquor on a daily basis would have to face physical and mental health issues that may end up in social problems and need counseling and treatment, citing the suicide of a youth due to alcohol withdrawal syndrome in the state. To all the tipplers who found the lockdown taking a toll on their mental health and showing withdrawal symptoms, the chief minister had announced in his presser on Saturday that the Excise department will give liquor to those who suffer provided a doctor’s prescription.
The slow pace in which he delivers each sentence with sensitivity and the confidence he instills to the viewers had turned many of his critics to sit and watch his one-hour long daily presser. He had also found time to warn people and organizations who took up voluntary works to not take advantage of the situation for political and individual interests while he asked the youths to join the ‘Sannadha Sena’, a voluntary organization for disaster management by the state.
Contrary to the 8 pm monologues of the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister takes questions and suggestions from the press and had even changed the mode of press conference upon the suggestions of the journalists to keep physical distancing as a precautionary measure to avoid the spread of viruses.
Many were taken by surprise when the chief minister announced in a press conference that mobile recharging of those under quarantine in homes and Covid care centers would be taken care of by the state government as it is crucial to know the happenings around us.
For the past two weeks, watching the daily presser of the chief minister with health minister K.K. Shailaja, Teacher and revenue minister E. Chandrasekharan alongside had become a daily routine for many especially the Malayalee expatriates who are away from their loved ones as his consistent and clear words with no space for doubts and errors have instilled confidence among a large number of people to stay happy at the times of discomfort.
While droves of migrant laborers are stranded on North Indian roads, walking kilometers to reach their state borders, about 4,600 relief camps have been opened for the ‘guest workers’ in the state as of now, housing about one and a half lakh migrant workforce. The chief minister had asked the district collectors to ensure their well-being and awareness classes in their mother tongues have also been started. He had also announced the cabinet decision to import medicines from Cuba and is waiting for the clearance of the Drug Controller General of India.
One thing that stands out him from the rest is the precaution he takes foreseeing an impending doom. It was first realized when food for Anganwadi students was dispatched to their homes when about 26,000 Anganwadis were shut in early March.
Priceless! This boy is really happy to see his Anganwadi teacher who came to his house with the midday meal stuffs as the schools in Kerala are closed in view of #CoronavirusPandemic ! Pic in Malayala Manorama pic.twitter.com/lxOfQTSqMv
— Liz Mathew (@MathewLiz) March 13, 2020
In addition to free ration for all, special arrangements were also made for the old, transgender persons, differently-abled and quarantined people to get provisions at their doorsteps, announced the chief minister.
As government institutions are shut, there have been speculations of many losing salaries, especially the temporary staff. However, the chief minister announced that they would not lose their salaries and aid of Rs 1,000 was announced to the lottery sellers who are mostly differently-abled.
On fast-track mode, #Kerala to go for #RapidTesting https://t.co/he56pODLEy via @NewIndianXpress @shailajateacher @KeralaHealth @navjotk28 @MoHFW_INDIA @ICMRDELHI @xpresskerala #Covid_19 #FlattenTheCurve #IndiaFightsCorona #KeralaFightsCorona
— Dileep V Kumar (@dileepvk_TNIE) March 29, 2020
Chief minister’s press conference caught the eye during his daily briefing on the deluge in 2018 where his lucid deliverance of government measures had won accolades and helped in gaining worldwide support for the rescue and rehabilitation works.