NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Friday hailed the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, saying that "some important decisions" taken by it helped in bringing down the COVID-19 cases, and also expressed confidence that things will go back to normal and the pandemic-hit economy will revive.
He said the Maharashtra government has indicated that it will provide relief to people in fuel prices after the Centre's excise duty cut on petrol and diesel, but it will be in a position to do so if the central government pays the GST compensation to the state.
Pawar was talking to reporters at 'Govind Baug', his residence at Baramati in Pune district, on the occasion of his family's get-together for Diwali celebration, when party workers across the state visit him to extend their festival greetings. Last year, the Pawar family did not celebrate Diwali in Baramati due to COVID-19.
"Last year, due to COVID-19, we had to follow certain norms, but now the danger of COVID-19 is slowly declining in the country. As far as Maharashtra is concerned, the state government took some important decisions, as a result of which, we are witnessing that the number of coronavirus patients is declining," he said.
Even this year, the family was in a fix about whether to celebrate Diwali as usual or not, he said, adding, "But people and colleagues insisted that we celebrate Diwali in Baramati and assured that they would follow all the COVID-19 norms during their visit. Today, hundreds of people, party colleagues visited and offered their Diwali greetings in a disciplined manner." The former Union minister said he is confident that the coronavirus situation would improve further.
"We are coming out of danger...I am sure that we will go back to normal and will be able to compensate for the losses incurred during the pandemic and we will be able to revive the economy...I wish warm Diwali to all the people and I am sure that we will be able to start again with new hope," Pawar said.
On the relief given by the Centre on fuel prices and asked if the state government will offer some respite to the people, Pawar, whose party shares power with the Shiv Sena and the Congress in Maharashtra, said that he needs to talk to state government on the issue.
"The state government has indicated that it will provide a relief for sure, but the Centre should pay the GST compensation and only if it is given it will be possible for it to take a decision in favour of people," he said.
On Wednesday, the central government cut the excise duty on petrol and diesel by a record Rs 5 and Rs 10 per litre, respectively, to help bring down rates from their highest-ever levels.
His nephew and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar was not present for the family's Diwali get-together.
When asked about it, the NCP supremo said doctors have indicated that Ajit Pawar has COVID-19 symptoms.
"His testings were done today morning and the results are yet to come. As a precaution, we decided not to take any risk and hence he decided not to attend the event," he added.
According to him, some members of the Ajit Pawar's house staff and drivers have contracted the infection.
When asked about the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) employees' strike, Pawar said the main office-bearers of the workers' unions met and told him that they do not want to go ahead with the strike.
"They told me that they do not want to cause any inconvenience to people during Diwali, but some people (ST workers) have taken an extreme stand of continuing the strike," he said.
Pawar added that 80-85 per cent ST buses were providing services to people and only 15 to 20 per cent are off the roads.
"I appeal to those who are still on strike to end the strike. Even the court has taken a stand and asked them to refrain from the strike. I think they (employees) should respect the court decision and end the issue (of strike)," he said.
A section of employees of the MSRTC continued their strike on Thursday even as the Bombay High Court took serious note of the agitation that is continuing despite a restraining order.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)