ASSERTING that India had battled the coronavirus pandemic effectively, as reflected in its low mortality rate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday kept the focus on the economy in his first round of meetings with chief ministers post Unlock 1.0.
Claiming that green shoots were visible two weeks after the easing of the lockdown, the PM said the economy was expected to pick up further in the coming days and urged states to work together with the Centre for it.
Chief ministers of Punjab, Kerala, Assam, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Puducherry, besides six Northeast states (Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim) were present at the meeting, held over video-conference. It was also attended by lieutenant governors of Union territories Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, and Lakshadweep.
Modi told the CMs to focus on both lives and livelihood now, boost health infrastructure and emphasise testing and tracing to keep Covid-19 in check, even as they step up economic activities. “Decisions need to be taken keeping in view both current needs and future requirements,” the PM said. Follow Coronavirus India LIVE Updates
“There are already green shoots. Power consumption which was earlier falling is going up. In May, fertiliser sales doubled, there has been a healthy increase in kharif sowing in comparison to last year, the manufacture of two-wheelers is increasing, digital payments in retail sector have reached pre-lockdown levels, there was an increase in toll collection in May, and exports which saw losses for three months have bounced back to last year’s numbers,” Modi added.
The CMs sought more support from the Centre both in battling the pandemic and in reviving their economies. While Punjab wanted assistance in implementing the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme, Arunachal sought funds for construction of highways. Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb wanted the Centre’s support to meet its budgetary proposals.
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh said the financial crisis in Punjab is likely to be acute, with around Rs 25,000-30,000 crore shortfall in revenue collection. He said the Centre should extend provision of free food grains to the poor by six months and provide revenue grants to states for three months. He sought a review of the 15th Finance Commission report, given how the situation had changed due to Covid-19.
Singh also asked the PM to set up a high-powered group including a few CMs, to formulate a coordinated Centre-state response on the economic impact of the pandemic.
Modi praised Punjab’s micro-containment and house-to-house surveillance model to prevent the spread of coronavirus, asking other states to adopt the same.
The PM asked states and UTs to focus on farming, horticulture, fisheries and MSMEs, asserting that more opportunities are opening up under the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme. “Provisions have been provided for timely credit to MSMEs. If quick disbursal of credit to industries is ensured through bankers’ committees, these industries will be able to start working quickly and it could provide more job opportunities,” Modi said, adding that specific economic activity points in states should work 24 hours a day.
Modi assured that new markets would be opened up for organic, bamboo products and other tribal proceeds. He urged states, especially the ones in the Northeast, to identify such products at block and district levels for better processing and more effective marketing.
At the same time, the PM cautioned, India could not drop its guard on coronavirus. Pointing out that the recovery rate in the country was over 50% and its mortality rate among the lowest in the world, he said the big lesson learned from the lockdown period was that Covid-19 could not do much damage if people were disciplined and followed the rules.
“It’s unsettling to see the death of any Indian. But it’s also true that we have the lowest mortality rate. It gives us confidence that India can march forward, limiting its losses and protecting its economy,” he said, emphasising the importance of wearing face masks, washing hands regularly and using hand sanitisers.
“Do not even think about leaving the house without masks. Any lapse in taking precautions will undo our efforts and weaken our fight against corona. We should remember that the better we protect ourselves from corona, the faster our economic revival will be.”
The CMs provided feedback on the health infrastructure in their states and efforts to augment it. They also talked about the awareness campaigns they were running as well as their efforts to help migrant workers who had returned, and to kickstart the economy.
In a letter sent ahead of the meeting, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said embassies abroad should facilitate Covid-19 tests for those returning to the country, and those testing positive should be flown back on separate flights. Kerala has seen a spike in cases as people come back to the state from other countries.
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