Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday said he was not in favour of complete lifting of the coronavirus-induced lockdown in the state only to address the economic concerns. He said there was a need to strike a balance between the issues related to health and economy considering the challenge posed by the pandemic.
"I will never say that the lockdown will be lifted completely. But I have started reopening a few things gradually. Once reopened, it shouldn't be shut again. Hence, I prefer taking steps in phases. You can't just think about economy or health. There needs to be a balance between the two," he said.
Thackeray made this statement in an interview published in Shiv Sena mouthpiece "Saamana" on Saturday.
The ongoing lockdown in the state will continue till July 31. From June onwards, the government had started lifting the restrictions in phase-wise manner under its "Mission Begin Again" initiative.
"This pandemic is a global war. It has affected the entire world. Those countries which had lifted the lockdown in haste thinking that it was over, were again forced to impose it to curb the spread. In Australia, they had to rope in Army," he said.
"Many people are opposing lockdown. They say that lockdown is affecting the economy. To such people, I would say that I am ready to lift the lockdown, but if people die due to it, would you take the responsibility?…Even we are concerned about the economy," he said.
On the restarting of the suburban railway network in Mumbai, he said, "What if families fall ill and their houses are sealed? Therefore, everything would be done step-by-step."
Speaking about his government which has completed six months in office,Thackeray said he was leading a three- party alliance government supported by some independents.
"This is not just Thackeray sarkar, but everybody's sarkar,especially that of the citizens of the state,who have accepted this experiment," he added.
After the assembly polls last year, the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress came together to form the government in the state.
Thackeray said the six-month period has been full of challenges like the coronavirus pandemic and Nisarga cyclone, which hit the coastal parts of the state on June 3.
"I am not bothered about the political challenges. People have faith in me," he said.
Talking about the coronavirus situation in Mumbai, he said, "There was never a need to call the Army in Mumbai. I am proud of the administration which rose to the challenge and set up jumbo field hospitals for treatment of coronavirus patients in the city."
Speaking about the criticism that he has not been to the Mantralaya,the state secretariat, during the pandemic, the chief minister said that technology helps people in doing all the work and there was no need to travel.
"I can be at home and cover the entire state with help of technology and take quick decisions. I am not saying one shouldn't move out. But when you go out, you are at one place only while through video-conference you can go everywhere," he said.
"I am not bothered what critics say till people trust me.I am honest with my work," he added.
On starting the academic year during the pandemic, Thackeray said e-learning was the only option.
When asked about Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis's recent visit to Delhi, Thackeray said sarcastically that he might have gone there to take stock of the coronavirus situation in the national capital.
"He goes to Delhi and speaks about Maharashtra's COVID-19 situation since he has given his MLA funds in Delhi," the CM said in an apparent reference to BJP MLAs donating to PM Cares Fund and not to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
"Recently, a survey listed Maharashtra chief minister as the best CM in the country. This caused stomach pain to many," he said.
"Coronavirus has many symptoms. Stomach ache may be one of them. Loss of taste is also a symptom," he said sarcastically when he was asked if life has become tasteless for some since the MVA government came to power.
Thackeray also rejected the criticism that his government had hidden the number of coronavirus victims. "The WHO and Washington Post have taken note of the state government's efforts," he said.