Updated: May 11, 2020 11:33:43 pm
In his fifth meeting with state chief ministers to discuss the post-lockdown strategy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the road ahead should be focused on reducing the spread of Covid-19 and ensuring that all precautions were taken by people, including social distancing norms, by observing ‘do gaz doori‘.
“Slowly but surely, economic activities have begun to pick up in several parts of the country. In coming days, this process will further gather steam. We must realize that fight against Covid-19 has to be more focused now,” ANI quoted PM Modi as saying in the meeting. “Even as we look at the gradual withdrawal of the lockdown, we should constantly remember that till we do not find a vaccine or a solution, the biggest weapon with us to the fight the virus is social distancing,” he said.
The interaction was attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan among others. Unlike previous meetings where only select CMs were shortlisted to speak, this time all CMs were given an opportunity to share their opinion.
“I request you all to share with me by May 15, a broad strategy on how you each one of you would want to deal with the lockdown regime in your particular states. I want states to make a blue print on how to deal with various nuances during and after the gradual easing of the lockdown,” the PM told the chief ministers.
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PM Modi: Have to ensure rural India remains free from Covid-19
During the videoconference, PM Modi told chief ministers that India would have to devise and implement a “balanced strategy” to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and the biggest challenge for the country will be to ensure that the infection does not spread to villages.
“We also have to ensure that rural India remains free from this crisis. The problems have increased wherever the social distancing norms were not followed or there has been laxity in implementation of the lockdown guidelines,” PM Modi said.
Appreciating the role played by the states in the fight against the pandemic, Modi said the entire world was of the view that India had been able to successfully protect itself from the pandemic.
Mamata Banerjee accuses Centre of playing politics
However, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the Centre for “playing politics” over the issue and opposed the resumption of passenger train services.
“We have been cooperating with the Centre but why are you playing politics. This is not the time for politics. We are doing our best but why is the Centre attacking West Bengal,” Mamata Banerjee reportedly said in the meeting.
Underscoring the federal structure, Banerjee asked the Centre to talk to states before ending the lockdown and allowing resumption of other services.
Bengal and the Centre have been at loggerheads ever since the Union Home Ministry sent two Inter-Ministerial Central Teams to the state to check on its Covid-19 efforts.
Recently, charges and counter-charges flew between them over a letter Union Home Minister Amit Shah had reportedly written to Mamata Banerjee, accusing the state government of not allowing ‘Shramik trains’ run by the Railways to reach the state.
Delhi CM Kejriwal: Economic activities should resume in Delhi
Barring containment zones, economic activities should be allowed to resume in the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in the meeting. “During the interaction, the chief minister said economic activities should be allowed to resume in Delhi, except in COVID-19 containment zones,” Kejriwal said, PTI reported.
Don’t allow train, air services in Tamil Nadu till May 31: Palaniswami
On his part, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami asked PM Modi not to resume passenger train services in the state till May 31. He also urged him not to allow regular air services, citing the increasing COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu, which has crossed the 7,000 mark.
“We know from media that regular train service to Chennai (from Delhi) and from Chennai will commence from May 12. As the positive cases in Chennai are showing an increasing trend,dont permit train service up to 31.5.2020, in my state,” Palaniswami told Modi.
Kerala CM: Allow states to change lockdown rules
While maintaining that there should be restrictions on inter-state travel, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said each state should be allowed to make changes in the lockdown guidelines according to the conditions prevailing in their respective areas.
“Relaxations should be gradual. Domestic flight services could be resumed with special guidelines, except from the containment zones. Medical tests could be conducted at the airports and those with symptoms should not be allowed to travel,” Vijayan said. Vijayan also reiterated the demand for raising borrowing limit, and to make more funds available at lower interest rates.
Chhattisgarh CM: Allow states to decide on economic activities
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, during video conference with PM Modi, said state governments should get the right to take decisions on handling of economic activities. “They should also get the responsibility to declare red, green & orange zones,” ANI quoted Baghel as saying.
Telangana CM opposes resumption of train services
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to resume the passenger train services. He also observed that the impact of Covid-19 has been more in major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad.
“Chief Minister Sri K Chandrashekhar Rao has urged Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi not to revive the passenger train services, which were stopped as part of preventive measures to contain spread of coronavirus in the country,” a press release said.
Punjab CM pitches for lockdown extension
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh pitched for extension of the lockdown backed by fiscal and economic empowerment of the states to save lives and secure livelihood, ANI quoted the CMO a saying.
“States need to be given greater flexibility in micro-planning as part of a carefully planned exit strategy, encompassing both Covid-19 containment and a defined path of economic revival,” Singh said.
In a meeting on Sunday, state chief secretaries had called for a calibrated stepping up of economic activities in a video conference with the cabinet secretary. The Central government is, however, still undecided on lifting the lockdown completely.
Citing instances of crowding when some states opened up liquor shops, an official said, “At times, it is not the virus as much as community compliance that is a problem. This raises alarm bells over compliance with social distancing norms when the lockdown is fully lifted,” said the official underlining the government’s cautious approach. It is most unlikely that shopping malls, cinema halls and restaurants would be opened or gatherings like weddings and political meetings permitted, for an extended period.
Following the last interaction with CMs on April 27, the Centre had extended the lockdown till May 17. However, the government had announced considerable relaxations in green and orange zones, including movement of private and public transport within a state, and further opening up of the economy.
The government also allowed private offices to function with 33% strength as well as standalone liquor shops in red zones, barring containment areas.
The nationwide lockdown has been in force since March 25 to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 2200 people, and afflicted more than 67,000 in the country.
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