Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked his council of ministers to prepare a “business continuity plan” for their ministries, with a list of 10 priorities for the period after the lockdown is lifted.
Modi also asked them for suggestions to make the pandemic an opportunity to boost India’s domestic market, while reducing the dependence on other countries.
The council of ministers discussed ways to help farmers in the harvesting season, which is in crisis due to the lack of labourers.
The PM suggested harnessing technology and encouraging the exploration of innovative solutions such as the use of truck aggregators to connect farmers with mandis, on the lines of app-based cab services.
During an interaction with chief ministers last week, Modi had suggested that states should formulate a “common exit strategy” to ensure the staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends.
During Monday’s meeting, the PM signalled that the central government is working on such a strategy.
“It’s a long battle,” Modi said. “Do not get tired or get defeated. This is a war we have to win. Our mission is one and our pledge is one, and that is we will have victory in this war,” Modi told BJP workers.
He echoed the same in his meeting with the ministers, too – and underlined the importance of being motivated, determined, and vigilant in the battle against COVID-19, and to continuously monitor welfare programmes so that their benefits reach the poor in a seamless manner.
“The crisis in the farming sector during this harvesting season was a big concern raised by the Prime Minister. He wanted all the ministers to come up with suggestions that can be implemented in their respective areas. He also talked about ways to resume manufacturing in the hubs with the remaining labourers so that economic activities could be revived,” a source familiar with the discussions at the meeting said.
The source said the Prime Minister had asked each ministry to prepare a business continuity plan for its activities.
According to another source, Modi had said that “there could be a plan to open up the districts which are not identified as hotspots”. The PM, this source said, “also wanted resumption of activities in the manufacturing sector, especially those for export”.
“The PM said this crisis can be turned into an opportunity for us to find new areas of export and new countries,” the source said.
An official note on the meeting said: “Talking about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, Prime Minister said that the government must work on war footing to mitigate the impact, adding that the ministries should prepare a business continuity plan. He noted that a graded plan to slowly open departments where hotspots are not existing should be made, adding that the crisis offers an opportunity to become self dependent in the medical sector.”
Modi asked all ministers who have been given charge of states in the battle against the coronavirus, to take feedback from district authorities on both the farming and manufacturing sectors.
The ministers were asked to communicate exhaustively with the state and district administrations, especially in the districts that have been identified as hotspots, and to be aware of the situation on the ground with regard to emerging problems.
They were also asked to ensure that PDS centres are not crowded, and to take action on complaints of blackmarketing and rise in the prices of essential commodities.
The informal group of union ministers, which has been brainstorming on issues arising out of the nationwide lockdown, too has been discussing options post the lockdown period that ends on April 14. The committee met on Friday, and is expected to meet again this week.
At Monday’s meeting, the PM stressed that the lockdown measures and social distancing norms needed to go hand in hand.
“Prime Minister said that it is essential to strategise for the emergent conditions once lockdown ends… While mentioning that due to the emergent challenges the country need to lessen its dependence on other nation, he asked all departments to maintain an objective index on how their work will promote Make In India,” the official note said.
The meeting was also attended by the principal secretary, cabinet secretary, and other senior officials, who gave detailed presentations on the “steps being taken to meet the emerging challenges”, the official release said.
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