New Delhi: An empowered panel of secretaries has recommended to the Modi government to give incentives and initiate measures to allow migrant labourers to return from their native places or wherever they are stranded to metropolitan cities, where they were working, so that they can earn their livelihood during the second phase of the lockdown that starts Wednesday, ThePrint has learnt.
This is one of the several suggestions given by the panel that the government would have in mind while preparing the detailed guidelines that will be issued Wednesday — specifying the list of sectors where certain relaxations could be given after 20 April for economic activities to resume.
The Union cabinet will meet Wednesday evening to decide on some of the policy initiatives to address the plight of labourers and daily wagers.
This panel that has recommended to the government is one of the 11 empowered committee of secretaries constituted to strategise on economic and welfare measures during the Covid-19 lockdown. These 11 committees were set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.
Farm activities, small industries could resume
Government sources told ThePrint Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba will interact with all the state chief secretaries, home secretaries and health secretaries Wednesday morning to get their feedback about the ground situation before finalising the guidelines.
“The states will be asked about their views on what all industries can be allowed to open and in what form. There is a general feeling that in rural pockets farm-related activities should be opened up because of the rabi harvest season,” said one of the sources.
Besides, certain small industries — both in the organised and unorganised sectors — could be opened, allowing, among others, the daily wagers to earn their livelihood.
“There is some thought to open up e-commerce businesses and taxi aggregator services. But a final call will be taken only after the cabinet secretary’s meeting with the (states’) chief secretaries,” the source added.
The source said in his interaction with the chief secretaries, Gauba will ask the states and union territories to draw up a list of districts where economic concessions can be given after 20 April.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday said that until 20 April, all districts and localities in the country will be closely monitored to see how strictly they are implementing the lockdown norms.
States, which will not let Covid-19 hotspots increase, could be allowed to resume some important activities, but with certain conditions, the PM said earlier in the day.
Migrant workers getting restless due to lack of income
Another government source said there is a growing concern in the top echelons of the government that if livelihood issues of the poor and migrant workers, who are dependent on their daily earnings, are not resolved, then it could escalate into a law and order problem.
“What happened in Mumbai today (Tuesday) where 1,000 daily wage earners came out and squatted on roads or what happened in Surat and Punjab last week are examples. We are getting feelers from one state after another that migrant workers and daily wagers are getting restless in the absence of any source of income,” the source said.
Thousands of migrant workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and other states, gathered in large numbers at a bus stand in Mumbai Tuesday afternoon, demanding they be sent back to their native places.
A senior official in the Punjab government, who did not want to be named, said the state has recommended to the Centre that farm activities should be permitted otherwise the rabi produce would go waste.
States like Punjab and Delhi have allowed agricultural markets to remain open during certain specified time of the day.
Govt drawing up list of activities to be allowed
The panel has also recommended to the government a list of activities that could be allowed in green zones (districts where no Covid-19 cases have been reported) and amber zones (districts where no fresh cases have been reported in the last 14 days).
Currently, of the total 718 districts across the country, Covid-19 cases have been reported in about 370 districts, according to the health ministry data.
There are another 25 districts where no cases have been reported in the last 14 days.