With wheat crops standing in the fields and a farm crisis looming due to lack of harvesters and labour amid the lockdown to curb COVID-19, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday wrote to all states to make exceptions for farming activities.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all states, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla reminded that these exceptions had already been made in the guidelines sent by MHA to all states on the lockdown but noted that they were not being followed.
“I would like to draw your kind attention to Ministry of Home Affairs Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-(A) dated 27.03.2020 in which exceptions to lockdown measures have been allowed for agricultural operations, keeping in view the harvesting and sowing season. Though exceptions have been allowed for farming operations by farmers and farm workers, procurement of agricultural productions, operation of Mandis, movement of harvesting and sowing related machinery. etc., however, as per information received, these exceptions have not percolated down at the field level,” Bhalla’s letter said.
“With a view to ensure smooth harvesting and sowing operations, while maintaining social distancing, it is requested that the exceptions allowed for agriculture sector must be communicated to all Field agencies,” it added.
Meanwhile, Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri has written to all states to allow street vendors selling fruits, vegetables and groceries to operate during the lockdown. The letter comes in the wake of reports that police across the country are harassing vegetable vendors.
In its consolidated guidelines on March 27, MHA had made it clear that sale of groceries, fruits and vegetables were to be allowed and their home delivery encouraged.
“The urban street vendors are facing the risk of losing their livelihoods during the period of Iockdown. They play an important role in supply of essential items like groceries, fruits and vegetables to the citizens at affordable prices. …Therefore, in order to encourage the home delivery of essential items …it is advised that the street vendors carrying valid identity card/ certificate of vending, may be allowed to carry on their business subject to the restrictions imposed by the district authorities. However, restrictions may continue to be imposed on the street food vendors, as they may result in congregation of persons, violating the restrictions of the lockdown,” Puri’s letter said.
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