Lockdown extension, PM Modi meeting with Chief Ministers: The 54-day nationwide lockdown is scheduled to end on May 17. The virus has claimed 2,293 lives and infected over 70,000 people.
Modi meeting with CMs, Coronavirus lockdown: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hinted that the coronavirus-induced lockdown may not end completely but curbs will be further eased. During a video conference which lasted for nearly six hours on Monday evening, PM Modi said the country will have to devise a balanced strategy to revive the economy and deal with coronavirus. He said a sharp focus should be on ensuring that rural areas remain free from the deadly virus. He was of the firm view that the measures needed in the first three phases of lockdown were not needed in the fourth and asked the states to come up with a roadmap by May 15 on how to deal with various aspects of the gradual easing of the lockdown.
“We have a twofold challenge – to reduce the transmission rate of the disease, and to increase public activity gradually, while adhering to all the guidelines, and we will have to work towards achieving both these objectives,” he said.
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The nationwide lockdown came into effect from March 25 and has been extended three times. The lockdown is scheduled to end on May 17.
States also submitted their views with the majority of them demanding withdrawal of the lockdown from non-COVID areas as it adversely impacted the economy and livelihoods of people. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said barring containment zones, economic activities should be allowed to resume in the national capital.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh pitched for the extension of the coronavirus lockdown, but demanded a carefully crafted exit strategy providing fiscal support to states. He said decisions on designating red, orange and green zones should be left to the states. He said the exit strategy should consider and focus on fiscal and economic empowerment of the states, which are responsible for real action directly.
While Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami advised the Prime Minister against the resumption of flight and passenger train services till May 31, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray urged the PM to show specific and concrete direction on the lockdown. Thackeray stressed upon the importance of restrictions on movement of people from green to red zones and also sought central forces for Covid-19 duty as many of its own personnel were infected and the force was overworked. Uddhav also sought resumption of Mumbai local trains for those in essential services.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned that decision to resume train services saying on one hand, the government wants strict enforcement of the lockdown, on the other, it is resuming train services. Mamata also made a direct attack at the Prime Minister at the meeting, saying the BJP was using the crisis to score political points. Taking a stern view of the BJP’s campaign against her government over its coronavirus handling, Mamata said the time was not right to indulge in politics.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said economic activities cannot be blocked for a long time and the lockdown should be limited to containment zones. He also said that schools and colleges should open after the summer holidays. Gujarat has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country after Maharashtra.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao urged PM Modi not to resume the passenger train services, saying allowing them will lead to movement of people and pose problems in testing them for COVID-19 and quarantining. Trains were stopped as part of preventive measures to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur favoured extending the lockdown and urged PM Modi to make alternative arrangements for trading of the state’s apples. He said the state expects a good produce this year. He said Dehi’s Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s largest vegetable and fruits wholesale market, is the main place for marketing of the state’s apples. But it is shut due to coronavirus cases.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar urged the Prime Minister to authorize states to decide on their own to resume industrial and economic activities in green, orange, and red zones barring the containment ones. He said that about 14 lakh of 24 lakh workers engaged with about 35,000 factories in Haryana have returned to work. He also urged the Centre to consider opening schools, colleges and educational institutions running professional courses with 50% strength to maintain social distancing norms.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar favoured extending the lockdown till the end of May. He said that the lockdown will help to bring under control the situation that has arisen with migrants returning on a large scale. He said the state will be in agreement with whatever decision the Centre took with respect to the lockdown but extending it will be helpful. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren urged the PM to increase wages and man-days under MGNREGA scheme by 50% as it is the main thrust of the rural economy with stranded migrant workers returning to the state. He also urged PM Modi to speed up ferrying migrant workers to their homes.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said migrant workers coming to the state in huge numbers was a challenge, but it was dealing with the issue effectively. He also highlighted the measures taken by the government to provide relief to the affected people. He favoured industries located in green zone and orange zone to run according to the central government’s guidelines.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the format of the fourth lockdown should be mixed. He said a total lockdown should be enforced in infected areas while in others relaxations should be given with an aim to start economic activities.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa favoured proposing doing away with district wise colour-coding and instead advocated strict cordoning of containment zones. He said economic activities should be resumed in stand-alone establishments while partial relief could be given to malls, cinema halls, dining facilities and establishments.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot suggested PM Modi to launch an employment guarantee scheme for urban areas on the lines of the MGNREGA. He said states should be given powers to decide coronavirus zones and also demanded a financial package for industries.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has adversely affected economic activities. The lockdown left lakhs of people stranded in different cities due to the suspension of public transport. The virus has infected 70,756 people and killed 2,293.