Beginning May 18, Punjab will lift the curfew but will continue with the lockdown till May 31 with maximum possible relaxations, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Saturday said.
“From May 18, there will be no curfew in the state. But the lockdown will be there till May 31. Most of the shops and businesses will be allowed to open. We will give more relaxations. Select public transport will also start plying on roads from Monday onwards,” Amarinder said in a live Facebook interaction as part of his #AskCaptain initiative.
He said the containment zones will be sealed to enable the resumption of economic activity in non-containment areas, he said, adding that lockdown details will be announced by Monday after going through guidelines of the Centre.
Amarinder, however, made it clear that the educational institutions will remain closed.
“Schools cannot open till we have a cure for the virus. Social distancing is a must to check spread of the disease. I know children are losing on their studies…We are encouraging schools to start giving online classes,” he said, adding “There is not going to be any hike in fee this year by private schools”.
Defending the decision to extend the lockdown, he warned of another spike as he said 60,000 Punjabis from other states and 20,000 from other countries are coming back in the coming days. “We have to be careful. We hope we are able to control the spread by May 31 and do away with the lockdown also.”
Seeking support from the people to bear with the government, he said, “I am trying to save your lives. I will give you relief. You have to help me. It is for your welfare.”
‘Ensure transport for migrants’
The state government Saturday directed all deputy commissioners to ensure that there is no movement of migrants on roads or railway tracks and the same is facilitated through special buses or Shramik Special trains.
The DCs have been asked to set-up temporary centers in districts for the labourers on the move. They should be counselled and persuaded not to walk on roads.
They have been directed to arrange as many buses and trains as possible for their travel and open all the activities permitted under state government guidelines so that they are encouraged to stay back.
Earlier, the CM minister made it clear that his government will continue to pay for migrants wanting to go back home. “Seventeen to 18 trains ferry migrants daily from Punjab,” he said, adding that 13 lakh migrant workers are in the state.
No effort will be spared to ensure that no person goes hungry, he declared, agreeing that over one crore food packets distributed so far were not sufficient and more needed to be done on this count.
‘Resume air, rail, public transport’
Later in the day, Amarinder, in a statement said, that his government has suggested the Centre to resume air, railways and inter-state bus services with reduced capacity.
Other suggestions include allowing shops to open in all market and market complexes in a staggered manner, resumption of industry and construction activities in urban areas without any restriction, as well as permitting e-commerce for all commodities.
Offices, both private and government, may be allowed to open for the entire week during normal office hours with staggered timings to avoid over-crowding, the state government suggested.
Amarinder said the state government wanted no restrictions on movement of individuals from 5 am to 7 pm, and had suggested that restrictions, if any, may be imposed between 7 pm and 5 am.
The Punjab government, he said, is in favour of continued prohibition of activities where there would be a sizeable crowd under one roof, as in the case of shopping malls, cinemas, marriage and banquet halls, social, political and cultural gatherings and religious places.
‘Change grain distribution criteria’
Amarinder also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Centre to change the criteria for allocation of `chana whole’ from per household to per person, to ensure equitable distribution of foodgrain among the migrants.
He thanked the PM for acceding his request to extend the benefit of food grains and pulses under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) to the migrants. The Union Finance Minister has since made an announcement to this effect, benefiting 8 crore migrant workers across the country he noted.
However, as per the guidelines issued on May 15 by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, while wheat was to be distributed at 5 kg per person per month for a period of two months, ‘chana whole’ would be distributed at 1 kg per household per month for the said period.
This meant that while the benefit of wheat would be extended to 14.1 lakh migrants in Punjab, that of Chana whole would benefit only 3.6 lakh migrant household.
“Understandably, a large number of migrant workers who are residing without families in Punjab would get the allocation of wheat but they would not get any chana. And conversely some individual migrants would get Chana intended to be distributed to a household of 4 persons, which would lead to discontentment amongst a major chunk of migrants,” he added.
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