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Pulled up by Centre, Punjab govt withdraws order allowing opening of bookshops, AC/cooler outlets

The state government had Saturday allowed shops selling school, college and university material, as well as outlets that sell or repair air-conditioners and coolers to open.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: April 20, 2020 11:00:57 pm
Punjab coronavirus, Punjab coronavirus cases, coronavirus cases in Punjab, Punjab lockdown, lockdown in Punjab, India news, Indian Express The government had also allowed delivery of non-essential items through e-commerce and vehicles providing these services were allowed to run with permission.

TWO DAYS after the Punjab government allowed opening of bookshops, AC/cooler outlets, it withdrew its order on Monday after the Centre pulled it up for “diluting” relaxation guidelines, calling it a violation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The state government had on Saturday allowed bookshops selling school, college and university material, as well as outlets that sell/repair air-conditioners and coolers to open. The government had also allowed delivery of non-essential items through e-commerce and vehicles providing these services were allowed to run with permission.

In a letter to Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said, “Punjab government…has circulated revised guidelines for lockdown measures to all departments, district collectors, superintendent of police and other heads of departments….it is observed that the GoP has allowed opening of some activities which are prohibited in the aforesaid order dated 15.4.2020 of MHA. Such additional activities allowed by GoP, inter alia, including distribution of books by bookshops to school and college students and to treat the sale of air conditioners, air coolers, fans and their repair shops as essential goods/services. This amounts to dilution of guidelines issued by MHA and violation of MHA order dated April 15, issued under the Disaster Management Act 2005.”

Following the snub, the state government issued orders to all DCs, divisional commissioners, zonal IGs, commissioners of police, DIGs and SSPs, stating that the orders for opening of bookshops, coolers/ACs/fans shops and e-commerce activity of non-essential items stand deleted from the guidelines.

The Union home secretary’s letter also said that would urge the Punjab chief secretary to rectify the guidelines of GoP in line with the consolidated revised guidelines without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures.

CM directs DCs not to allow industrial activity in containment areas

In line with his decision to not ease the statewide curfew despite relaxations allowed by the Centre, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday clarified that industrial units being permitted to function in non-containment zones would be required to align with the state government’s earlier orders, as well as the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The MHA guidelines are in consonance with the state government’s decision to allow certain units to function with labourers staying on-site, the chief minister pointed out, adding that the Centre had accepted Punjab’s suggestion on this count.

Amarinder, who had announced on Sunday that there would be no relaxation in curfew in the state till May 3, on Monday asked the DCs to immediately clamp down on all activities contributing to the spread of COVID-2019 in containment zones and any other areas where the local administration sees a hotspot developing.

At the same time, he asked the DCs to facilitate opening of industrial units in non-containment areas by meticulously complying with instructions issued by the state government on April 18. All MHA guidelines and conditions should be strictly complied with by the district administration, he added.

Conditions laid down by the state government with regard to arrangement for stay, transport and food should be strictly met, along with meticulous compliance with all health advisories relating to the pandemic, the DCs were told by Amarinder.

The CM said the state government was deeply concerned about the plight of labour, including migrants, and industry, most of which fall under the tiny, micro, and small categories. At the same time, he said, “We are fully conscious of the need to ensure that the curfew imposed in the state has helped contain the spread of COVID-2019, and therefore needs to continue for some more time.” Detailed instructions issued on April 18 were in this background and aimed at facilitating the opening of industrial units as permitted under the new MHA guidelines of April 15, he added.

The MHA guidelines said bulk passes may be issued for the industrial and other establishments/activities that have been permitted with effect from April 20. These have been allowed commence operations with stringent compliance to conditions regarding stay and transport of workers.

As many as 11 different categories of industrial establishments have been allowed to operate with the condition that in case the industrial establishment employs 10 or more persons, it shall make arrangements for stay of workers within its premises as far as possible and/or adjacent buildings. The transportation of workers to the workplace shall be arranged by the employers in dedicated transport by ensuring social distancing.

Similarly, construction projects have also been permitted subject to some conditions, which implies that related activities of stone crushing, mining of sand and gravel its transport, sale outlets of cement, steel are also permitted though their working norms can be regulated.

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