Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said the COVID-19 pandemic took everyone to "pre-independence days", and appealed to people to take the pledge to make the state and the country free of the disease. In his address after unfurling the national flag at the state secretariat 'Mantralaya' on the country's 75th Independence Day, Thackeray said the state was fighting COVID-19 with determination and the vaccination drive against the disease was also being expedited.
"Just yesterday, we achieved a milestone of vaccinating 9.5 lakh citizens on a single day," he noted. The CM said the country achieved independence due to people's struggle and movement.
"We are now celebrating 75 years of freedom, and we have to take the pledge that we will make our state and the country free of coronavirus and celebrate the Independence Day next year freely. The pandemic had taken everyone back to the pre-independence days and we all were experiencing the same in the last one-and-a-half years," he said.
Thackeray said most of the COVID-19 restrictions are now being relaxed. "But the threat is far from over. New strains of the virus are being detected in other countries...we have to take care that the threat doesn't hit us," he said.
The CM said even though medicines and vaccines are available, "there is still shortage of oxygen". "We are easing restrictions based on the availability of oxygen. I appeal to citizens to follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour," he said.
Thackeray said the state will be put under lockdown if there is a spike in daily COVID-19 cases and taking into account the availability of oxygen.
The chief minister also paid tributes to COVID-19 warriors and citizens who lost their lives to the viral infection. He said celebrating the Independence Day keeping in mind the history is not enough, but the need of the hour is to preserve the freedom secured due to sacrifices of several people.
"It is our duty to preserve the values of freedom," he said. Thackeray also paid tributes to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, saying the warrior king sowed the seeds of struggle for independence from foreign rule.
The CM also attended the flag-hoisting ceremony at the Bombay High Court. The tricolor was unfurled at the HC by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta, who also handed over a cheque of Rs 3.41 crore for the chief minister's fund for COVID-19 relief.