Covid-19 fight to be more targeted, PM signals focus shifting to economy

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Published: May 12, 2020 2:50 AM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said economic activities, which had started to pick up with the partial easing of lockdown restrictions, would gather further steam in the coming days.

This is an indication that the Centre may further relax guidelines substantially for the resumption of economic activities to save livelihood

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said economic activities, which had started to pick up with the partial easing of lockdown restrictions, would gather further steam in the coming days. This is an indication that the Centre may further relax guidelines substantially for the resumption of economic activities to save livelihood, even if it finally decides to extend the lockdown beyond May 17.

In a meeting with chief ministers of various states through video conference, his fifth since March 20 on the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister said: “We must realise that fight against Covid-19 has to be more focused now. Going forward, the road ahead should be focused on reducing the spread and ensuring that all precautions are taken by people including social distancing norms by observing ‘Do Gaj Doori’ (six-feet distance).”

Modi urged the chief ministers to ensure that people in rural areas remain the least affected. The meeting was also attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh, home minister Amit Shah, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and health minister Harsh Vardhan.

Some of the chief ministers were, however, were split in their demands, based on their own requirements. While some chief ministers – such as Andhra Pradesh’s Jaganmohan Reddy – wanted various lockdown restrictions to be lifted, with strict riders, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani pitched for limiting the lockdown to only “containment zones” within hot spots. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, however, wanted an extension of the current lockdown, albeit with a carefully-devised strategy to empower states to save both lives and livelihood. Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray sought “specific, concrete” direction from the Centre on lockdown. He wanted the Centre to allow the operation of local train services for essential service staff.

As FE has reported, with over 60% of units still remaining shut and most others operating at just 10-15% capacity, the “graded” easing of the lockdown curbs has barely revived manufacturing in export hubs. The red zones make up for around 60% of GDP. As for exports, the units that contributed about 70% to the country’s outbound shipments of $314 billion in FY21 are located in such hot spots. While many states have now given them approval to start manufacturing even in such hot spots (barring the “containment” areas within them), thus enabling more units to open, key cities – such as Mumbai and Ahmedabad – are still completely shut. Even manufacturing in some other industrial belts – such as Pune, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Indore, Kanpur and Agra – hasn’t really started.

In the meeting with Modi, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Bhagel sought the Centre’s approval to allow states to define red, orange and green zones. He asked the Centre to give wages for 200 days of work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and resumption of train and air travel and bus services. However, Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami didn’t want train, flight services to resume at least until May 31. Rajasthan chief minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot requested that the Centre permit inter-state supply chain to function properly.

There are 44,029 active corona cases in India, and the number is rising. The pandemic has claimed 2,206 lives so far, while 20,916 people have recovered from it.

In his meeting with the chief ministers, Modi said: “We now have reasonably clear indication as to the geographical spread of the pandemic in India, including the worst affected areas. Moreover, over the past few weeks, officials have understood operating procedures in a time such as this, right up to the district level,” he said.

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