New Delhi: Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal Friday rejected the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s proposal to lift the weekend curfew and odd-even rule applicable to the city’s markets, but allowed private offices to function with up to 50 per cent of their workforce in physical attendance, said senior officials in the Raj Niwas to ThePrint.
The L-G, who is appointed by the central government, is the chairperson of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), which takes all final calls on drafting and implementation of regulations concerning Covid-19.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is the elected head of the city government, is DDMA’s vice-chairperson. Delhi’s deputy chief minister and revenue minister are members of the body.
Deputy CM Manish Sisodia Friday told the press that a proposal was sent to the L-G regarding lifting of the weekend curfew and odd-even curbs in the light of the decline in the Covid-19 numbers and positivity rate in Delhi. The government had also asked the L-G to consider allowing private offices to function with up to 50 per cent of their staff in attendance, said Sisodia.
The DDMA eventually issued an order — a copy of which is with ThePrint — later Friday, in which it said private offices will be allowed to function with 50 per cent workforce with immediate effect, but all other curbs will continue. In a clause, the order specifically mentioned that the currently applicable night curfew and weekend curfew will remain in place till further orders.
A senior official in the L-G’s office who did not wish to be identified told ThePrint that the L-G had rejected the proposals regarding lifting the weekend curfew and the odd-even rule, which essentially allows shops in the city’s markets that do not deal with essential commodities to function on alternate days between Monday and Friday.
L-G Baijal himself did not comment on the matter till the time this report was published.
“It is unfortunate that L-G has rejected the strong demand of traders and business community. L-G has rejected the proposal of elected government despite the fact that corona cases are reducing at a very fast pace. When all markets of Gurugram and Noida are open, why should the business community of Delhi be made to suffer by BJP’s Central government,” the Delhi government said in a statement.
‘Lifting rules likely in a phased manner’
A second senior official in the L-G’s office, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the weekly average positivity rate in Delhi is still above 20 per cent and decisions on lifting of weekend curfew and the odd-even rule are likely to be taken in a phased manner after the positivity rate drops below this mark.
“The situation has to further improve and the L-G will also have to discuss the matter with the committee of experts for Covid-19 management in Delhi,” this official said.
The experts committee comprises NITI Aayog’s Member (Health) Dr V.K. Paul, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria and ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava.
“Further discussions on the subject are likely to happen in the next DDMA meeting next week, the exact date of which is yet to be notified,” the official added.
‘People should not struggle for survival’
A senior official in the Delhi government said several traders’ associations in the city have written to the chief minister and held meetings with ministers in the AAP government over the past two weeks, seeking removal of the weekend curfew and the odd-even rule, citing crippling financial losses.
These restrictions were imposed earlier this month in phases, in adherence to a graded Covid action plan, in the light of the surge of the Covid third wave in the capital.
Sisodia said in his Friday press briefing: “We have seen more than 28,000 cases in a day and the positivity rate crossed 31 per cent. It was necessary to impose curbs for people’s safety when cases were increasing. Now cases are declining. Today, Delhi recorded around 10,500 new cases and a positivity rate of around 17 per cent. The rate is further going down.”
“As cases go down, we have to ensure that the livelihoods of people are not affected any further. People need to get their businesses back on track. People should not keep struggling for survival. The pandemic has already led to massive job loss. That should not continue,” Sisodia said.
“So, in the favour of traders, the government has taken the decision to lift the weekend curfew, do away with the odd-even rule for markets and allow private offices to function with 50 per cent of their workforce in attendance. We have written to the L-G on this and his approval is awaited,” he added, before the L-G’s rejection of the proposal came to light.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)