New Delhi: India could see further easing of restrictions after 17 May, when the third phase of the nationwide lockdown ends, Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba indicated Sunday during a meeting with chief secretaries and health secretaries of states and union territories.
It is unlikely, however, that the lockdown will be completely lifted, officials who attended the meeting, that was held via video conferencing, have confirmed to ThePrint.
“Indications are that more relaxations will be given in areas, which are outside containment zone. However, lockdown will continue in areas that are seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases. A final decision on the government strategy post 17 May will be taken after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting tomorrow with the chief ministers,” said a senior official who attended Sunday’s meeting.
PM Modi will interact with chief ministers of all states and union territories Monday, for the fifth time since March, to review preparedness in tackling Covid-19, before the government’s future strategy vis-a-vis the lockdown is prepared.
In his meeting Sunday, Gauba also stressed the fact that while the central government has allowed relaxations, including letting industries, businesses, standalone shops and liquor shops to open, states will still have to be careful in ensuring that people do not flout social distancing norms.
“The cabinet secretary reiterated that states need to stringently enforce social distancing norms even while continuing to address livelihood issues. It can’t be an either, or thing. States will have to ensure that people’s livelihoods are restored,” said another official who attended the meeting.
The official added that Niti Aayog member Dr V.K. Paul, who was also part of the meeting, told officials how states shouldn’t fritter away gains made by the nationwide lockdown.
India imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world on 25 March, with exemptions given only to just a handful of essential services. However, a battered economy forced the government to change its strategy and gradually ease restrictions on movement of goods and services in a calibrated way in the next two phases, that began on 15 April and 4 May, respectively.
Also read: Modi govt tells ministries to be careful in releasing money to states for central schemes
Railways could allow trains to make halts en route
Transportation of migrant workers to their native places and restoration of livelihoods was also discussed in the cabinet secretary’s meeting Sunday.
Though no official order has been issued yet, sources said the central government could allow trains carrying stranded migrant workers, students and tourists to stop in between originating and destination stations so as to allow people who live en route to get down.
Currently, the Railways is operating non-stop services between the origin and destination stations. This has led to difficulties for people who live in areas falling between these stations.
“This was a demand made by Northeastern as well as some of the bigger states. The central government is likely to agree to it,” said a third official who had attended the meeting.
The official also said Gauba devoted a lot of time discussing the issue of migrant workers. “The cabinet secretary was of the view that migrant workers should be allowed to return home and if needed more trains will be provided to transport them.”
However, Gauba also cautioned states that they will have to strictly ensure migrants adhere to all protocols of social distancing after their return.
Centre could ease parameters for categorisation of Covid zones
Some states, including West Bengal, raised the issue of relaxing parametres for categorisation of areas into red, orange and green zones based on the number of Covid-19 cases.
“States want the central government to make categorisation of areas into different zones less stringent. Besides, many states also want the central government to let them decide what all activities to allow in different zones,” another official said.
The central government is likely to decide on the issue in the coming week, the official added.
Also read: India to grow between 0 to -2%: Economists lower forecast as 3rd lockdown delays revival
Lockdown is prisoning their own citizens for nothing … Totally dictatorship.. Do arrangement for dealing with covid19 … Prisoning own citizens is totally a dictatorship…
Varun you moron🤦♂️.
The hope expressed on 24th March was that this battle would be won in 21 days, a little longer than the epic Mahabharat . The curve was still at the base, with about five hundred cases. With foresight and planning, arrangements could have been made for buses and trains to take migrants and other stranded citizens safely, swiftly home. Other economy related decisions, like inter state movement of trucks, could have been streamlined. Extending the lockdown further will crush the economy and all stakeholders. The curve may not flatten till June or July.
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