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Home Ministry objects to easing of lockdown curbs by Kerala govt

The Home Ministry said Kerala's decision to allow opening of restaurants and MSME industries, and bus travel in cities amounts to dilution of its lockdown guidelines.

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New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affair (MHA) has objected to the decisions of Kerala government to allow services like Barbar shop, local workshops, restaurants etc and urged the state government to revise its lockdown guidelines.

The Government of India has said that violations to lockdown measures reported, posed a serious health hazard to public and risk for spread of COVID-19. Union Home secretary Ajay Bhalla has written a letter to all Chief Secretaries and a separate letter has been sent to the Kerala Chief Secretary asking them not to dilute lockdown guidelines in any manner.

In his letter to Kerala Chief Secretary, Bhalla stated that the consolidated revised guidelines on the measures to be taken by the Ministries/ Departments of the Government of India has been circulated on April 15 for containment of COVID-19.

“I would like to draw your kind attention to clause 4 (i) and (ii) of these guidelines which, inter alia mentions that (i) State/UT Governments shall not dilute these guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in any manner and shall strictly enforce the same and (ii) State/ UT Governments may however impose stricter measures than these guidelines as per requirement of the local areas,” Bhalla stated.

Bhalla has also quoted one Supreme Court order where the apex court observed “we trust and expect that all concerned viz. State Governments. Public Authorities and Citizens of this country will faithfully comply with the directives and orders issued by the Union of India in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety”.

While giving details about the decisions made by Kerala government, the Union Home Secretary said, “The Government of Kerala (GoK) vide their Order No 78/2020/GAD dated 17.04.2020 has circulated revised guidelines for lockdown measures to all Departments. District Collectors. Superintendent of Police and other Heads of Department of Kerala. On examining the said Order, it is observed that the GoK has allowed opening of activities which are prohibited in the aforesaid Order dated 15.04.2020 of MHA.”

Also read: How state govts are crowding out cash-strapped companies from debt market

“Such additional activities allowed by GoK. inter alia. includes opening of local workshops, Barber shops: restaurants; book stores: MSMEs in municipal limits: bus travel in the cities/ towns for shorter distance (upto 60 km): two passengers in the back seat of four wheeler; pillion riding on scooters. This amounts to dilution of guidelines issued by MHA and violation of MHA Order dated 15′ April 2020 issued under the Disaster Management Act 2005,” read the letter.

Bhalla has urged to Kerala government to rectify its guidelines in line with the consolidated revised guidelines dated 15′ April and 16′ April 2020 without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures.

Similarly, another letter has been written to all states and UTs Chief Secretaries asking them not to take decisions like the Kerala government.

Ajay Bhalla has said in his letter to states to ensure compliance of the revised consolidated guidelines, and directed all concerned authorities for their strict implementation in letter and spirit without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures.

Earlier, after the Centre wrote to the Kerala government regarding “dilution of guidelines” issued by MHA, Kerala Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that relaxations have been given abiding by the direction issued by Central government. He added that the Centre may have asked for an explanation, due to some misunderstanding.

“We have given relaxations abiding by directions issued by the Centre. The Centre may have asked for an explanation, due to some misunderstanding. Once we give an explanation, I hope the issue will be solved. We followed all norms set by the Central government,” Surendran said.

India is under a nation-wide lockdown which came into force on March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus which has claimed over 500 lives in the country. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of lockdown till May 3.

A day later on April 15, the MHA released new lockdown-guidelines for the country listing select economic activities that will be allowed to function after April 20 only after the review of the COVID-19 situation in India.

Notably, the MHA had said that the revised guidelines will not apply in containment zones, as demarcated by States.

Also read: Rotis, mobile recharges, carrom boards — how Kerala fixed its migrant worker anger


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