Queen Oja, Member of Parliament from Guwahati in Lok Sabha spoke exclusively to the sentinelassam.com and shared plans of all the 11 BJP MPs to help people of the state during these trying times. Oja also shared her plans for Guwahati post the lockdown. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Sentinel Assam: A lot of concern among the people of Assam regarding the large number of people coming back to the state.
Queen Oja: If we look at the increase in the number of COVID cases globally then we have to say that we in India are in a much better situation. Our numbers are still not that huge. The timely lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has helped us keep the numbers low. But because of the sudden lockdown, what did happen is that many people got stranded where they were like patients and pilgrims. In the initial days the number of cases in Assam was very low, now it is increasing but the government and health department has done a great job in creating the infrastructure within such a short time to take care of so many people. As educated people and people from a city like Guwahati we have to follow social distancing norms. Sanitisation is being carried out across the city.
As far as people returning back is concerned, many people have called me too. We have to understand that for patients, pilgrims and even students and migrant workers most of them have run out of money and a place to live in. We are helping them and we have to help them. We cannot let our own people die of hunger. That is why we are making arrangements to bring them back. We just have to follow social distancing and all these people coming back also has to understand this and follow norms.
In the past few days, I have got a lot of calls from people complaining that police, administration and even Army are not allowing them to set up shops anywhere and everywhere and ensuring social distancing. Administration is doing everything to prevent spread of the virus and taking care of all those already infected. People need to understand their responsibilities and play the role of a responsible citizen by not crowding in market places and following social distancing norms. We all know that this is a contagious virus and spreads very fast.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Army, every Assam Police personnel, the administration and all the doctors and health workers who are out there in the frontline doing a wonderful job. I am expressing my gratitude and thanking them on behalf of all the 10 constituencies that I represent.
Sentinel Assam: Post May 31 the pressure would go up manifold in case there are further easing of lockdown norms. What are BJP's plans? Would BJP karyakartas extend a helping hand to the administration in maintaining social distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID?
Queen Oja: Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has already directed every MLA to help the government in setting up quarantine centres. The MLAs have also been asked to make arrangements for the stay of all those people who would be returning to their homes. All BJP workers and volunteers would be extending their help and support for this.
Sentinel Assam: You also held the office of Mayor of Guwahati at one point of time. Do you feel that necessary steps for sanitization and development of the city had taken a back seat?
Queen Oja: As the government or as part of the administration we have been taking steps to ensure cleanliness and hygiene and under Prime Minister Modiji we have the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. But as citizens of the society who are also part of the administration and the government, each of us have to play our role and perform our duties. We as citizens have to be aware about disposing our garbage properly. I am now an MP but I too was a citizen and am still a citizen. It is each of our responsibility to be aware and responsible about keeping our city clean and hygienic.
Sentinel Assam: Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been expressing his displeasure in the government's way of handling the migrant workers' situation.
Queen Oja: I think this is the time to get together and work towards the well being of the people. Mr Tarun Gogoi is a very senior leader and I am sure he knows this. If Prime Minister Modi had not taken the decision for a lockdown at that time, we might have had a large number of cases already and many people would have died because of COVID. I will not deny the fact that many people have been inconvenienced.
I feel it is the responsibility of the industry and factory owners, employers too to take care of their migrant workers. What I have seen here is that the owners did not take any responsibility of their workers. We BJP workers have been taking care of them. I have got calls from many such migrant workers from across Assam and we have been arranging for their food. I do admit that these people are going through a lot because of the sudden lockdown. This is not the time to criticise one another. This is the time to join hands and do constructive work. We appreciate what they (Congress) did to bring home stranded people back from Majuli. We need more such acts.
Sentinel Assam: Do you feel that this is the time to permanently fix health infrastructure because governments over the years have not been spending enough in the health sector and this is the opportunity?
Queen Oja: Assam's Chief Minister and Health Minister have realised all these things and therefore they are already working towards increasing and fixing the health care infrastructure in the state. All of us MPs have donated the money we get under the MPLADS to the PM's fund. Our MPs and MLAs are all doing their bit. Yes, we did not have enough ICUs and ventilators but this health emergency has taught us a lot and our health minister and the government are doing all it needs to fix all of these. The government is arranging for food and livelihood of the stranded people.
Sentinel Assam: How much of the Prime Minister's economic package you think will be implemented for Assam?
Queen Oja: All the nine BJP MPs in Lok Sabha, we will focus on implementing all those announcements made in the economic package. The Prime Minister has always focused on the development and upliftment of Northeast and Modiji refers to the Northeast as Asthlakshmi. It is our responsibility too as MPs to get the best benefits for the people of the region and the state. I too have a lot of ideas for our bell metal, handloom and handicrafts sector. We are total 11 BJP MPs in Parliament and we plan to work together for the well-being and development of our people during this period of crisis and also after the lockdown.
Sentinel Assam: As the MP from Guwahati what are your plans for the city?
Queen Oja: I am actually very sad. I am above 65 years so I am unable to go out and work for my people the way I want to or take care of them the way I would want to. I am doing whatever I can from indoors but I am not happy as I am unable to do to my heart's content. We had just started working for our people, its barely been one year and this happened. I hope we will get out of this situation very soon and I will be able to do all that I have been planning to do for the welfare of my people. They had a dream and expectations from me when they elected me. I want to live up to those expectations and make them happy.