The Centre is fully ready to tackle a possible third wave of COVID-19 and a provision of Rs 23,123 crore has been made for this purpose, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said on Friday.
He said special emphasis is being given to strengthening paediatric care amid apprehension that the third wave may affect children more than others.
Thakur, who is on a five-day ‘Jan Ashirwaad Yatra’ in his home state Himachal Pradesh, was speaking to reporters here. This is his maiden visit to the state since being sworn in as a Union Cabinet minister last month.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is fully ready to tackle a possible third wave of COVID-19. A provision of Rs 23,123 crore has been made to deal with it, said Thakur, who is also the minister for youth affairs and sports.
Special emphasis is being given to strengthening paediatric care as experts fear that the third wave may affect children more than others. The Centre has also set aside Rs 35,000 crore for free Covid vaccination, he said.
Some experts have warned that the third wave of COVID-19 may affect children more while others have said there is little reason to believe this theory. However, experts concur that there is a need to improve paediatric Covid services in the country.
So far, India has reported 3,23,58,829 COVID-19 cases and 4,33,589 deaths due to the disease, according to the Union health ministry.
Thakur said when the second wave of the pandemic hit the country, no one knew oxygen cylinders would be needed. Now, there are plenty of oxygen cylinders in the country.
He said he is lucky to have had the opportunity to work under a visionary leader like PM Modi.
He said he was among the three-four people who used to attend meetings with Modi on handling the Covid situation in the country and witnessed the PM’s relentless efforts to deal with the pandemic.
India faced a brutal second wave of COVID-19 in April-May. During this period, the country reported a large number of daily deaths, while overstretched hospitals scrambled to maintain a steady supply of oxygen for patients.
Thakur started his ‘Jan Ashirwaad Yatra’ from Parwanoo in Solan district on Thursday. He will cover a distance of 623 km across four Lok Sabha constituencies and 37 assembly segments in eight districts in the hill state.
Accompanied by state minister Suresh Bhardwaj and Shimla MP Suresh Kashyap, Thakur said that a total of Rs 4,200 crore will be spent on various health sector projects in Himachal Pradesh.
He said Rs 437 crore will also be spent on the PGI Satellite Centre in Una.
Sharing his vision for Himachal Pradesh, Thakur said over the next 10 years, the art and culture of the state will be promoted not just in India but also abroad.
There is a need to promote and showcase the art and culture of Himachal Pradesh which varies from Kinnaur’s kettle to Chamba’s ‘thaal’ and handkerchief and from Kangra’s paintings to ‘natis’ (dances) of different areas, he said.
As far as the folklore of the hill state is concerned, its melodious music has a special significance, he added.
Replying to a question about building a sports stadium in Shimla, Thakur said stadiums will be built at all those places where land is available for the purpose.
He said he wants to build stadiums that can not only be used for sports but will also be tourist attractions.
He said the cricket stadium built in Dharamshala during his tenure as BCCI president is an added attraction for tourists.
“At least five lakh people visit the Dharamshala cricket stadium every year and the number of tourists visiting Dharamshala has also increased a lot after the construction of the stadium,” the minister said.
Replying to a question, Thakur took a dig at the Congress, saying, “I hope Congress will elect its president by 2024.”
Asked about plans to join state politics, he said he is happy with his current responsibility and that he will do whatever he can for Himachal Pradesh while discharging his duty as a Union minister.
Earlier in the day, Thakur flagged off the ‘Fit India Run” at Peterhoff here. The event was organised by Nehru Yuva Kendra.