A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Wednesday that the state would have to announce a financial package for the unorganised sector and added that states would require the Centre’s assistance.
However, the BJP government in Tripura said it is fully prepared for the lockdown.
Sarma told The Indian Express: “Many states like Assam do not have the financial resources to tackle the lockdown for three weeks. Today is the first day. The challenges will grow as we move forward.”
Sarma said the state government was prepared for a week-long lockdown but a 21-day lockdown would raise challenges for all Northeastern states. Before the Prime Minister’s announcement, Assam had been placed under a lockdown till March 31 midnight to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“No one has stocks or preparations for 21 days. Prices, too, are going up. It will be difficult for us to manage. I am a little worried about how people will react after a week,” said Sarma, also the convener of North East Democratic Alliance, a BJP-led coalition in the Northeast.
Assam has not reported any COVID-19 case so far. Among Northeastern states, Manipur and Mizoram have reported one case each.
Sarma said the worst sufferers of the lockdown would be the poor. “Challenges will emerge in three-four days. You don’t know how prepared they are. They will need assistance. We will have to provide them some financial assistance,” he said.
He said he is confident that the Centre would provide the required assistance. “We are depending on the Government of India,” he said.
Sarma said that if COVID-19 strikes the region in a big way, the states would face a crisis as health facilities there are not up to the mark. The minister, however, said there may be fewer transmissions of COVID-19 in the Northeast.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said the state government is fully prepared. “A task force has been formed to tackle the situation,” Deb told The Indian Express.
He said the government has decided to provide 15 days of free ration to 5.86 lakh families. The state government will also give two months’ pension in advance to 3.25 lakh pensioners, among other measures, he said.
“We have decided to distribute cooked food among the homeless and daily wagers. Food packets will be served two times daily,” he said. He said the Centre has assured total support during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, multiple videos purportedly showing policemen thrashing people in Assam for stepping out during the lockdown have emerged.
Assam DGP B J Mahanta told the media that police will take all measures possible to ensure the lockdown and added that they might have to resort to harsh measures sometimes because people were not taking the lockdown seriously.
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