What is with the sharpening of K Chandrasekhar Rao’s position vis-a-vis the Centre? On Monday, the Telangana chief minister tore into the Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore financial package, dismissing it as “bogus” and accused New Delhi of treating the states as minions.
Coming as it did close on the heels of the Centre’s annoyance over Telangana’s extremely low testing, it made one wonder if KCR was returning fire with fire. When compared to states like Tamil Nadu (2.79 lakh), Andhra Pradesh (2 lakh) and Maharashtra (2.30 lakh), Telangana has tested only 22000 people, suggesting that Hyderabad is statistically flattening the Covid-19 curve. While neighbour Andhra Pradesh tested close to 9000 people everyday, Telangana tested just 200-odd. Also Telangana’s tally of average tests per million population at 546 is nearly half of the all-India average of 1025 in the first week of May.
Union Health secretary Preeti Sudan in her letter to the Telangana chief secretary Somesh Kumar had advised him to “chase the virus rather than the virus chase us”. What worried the Centre was the fact that Telangana had a higher positivity rate – the ratio of positive diagnosis to the number of tests conducted – than the national average.
KCR’s hit at the NDA government was followed by son KT Rama Rao, who is both Industry minister and TRS Working President. On Tuesday night, KTR tweeted about how Telangana had so far run 75 Shramik Special trains to ferry one lakh plus people to various states and paid Rs 6 crore to the Indian Railways.
“Zero contribution from GoI,” he tweeted.
Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leaders deny there is any connection between the father and son taking on New Delhi and the criticism over low testing. They dismiss the controversy over low testing, saying this is not a competition to see who tests more. They cite the example of Kerala that has tested 39000 people so far and point out that the southernmost state is being feted for managing the crisis most successfully.
TRS sources also say Telangana is using only the RT-PCR testing kits, recommended by ICMR. The state says it is doing targeted testing of symptomatic cases instead of testing everyone at random, as it would create unnecessary panic and even result in stigmatisation of anyone who has been tested.
“If there is a cough, the doctor would recommend medicine or a syrup. Without any symptoms, why would the doctor test you,” asks a TRS leader.
The other criticism that has come Telangana’s way is its refusal to let private labs undertake testing. The TRS view is that KCR should in fact, be complimented for not allowing private players from fleecing people in the name of conducting tests.
The Telangana BJP has accused the TRS government of “brazen deviation in reference to public health standard protocols in order to paint an illusionary rosy picture”.
“Health minister E Rajender should resign for endangering the entire population of Telangana by intentionally conducting the lowest number of tests than any other state in India, with proportionate population,” says Krishna Saagar Rao, Chief spokesperson of the BJP in Telangana.