Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to hold a meeting with chief ministers on Monday to review the nationwide lockdown and steps required to further contain the spread of the covid-19 pandemic.

While most state governments said strict lockdown measures should continue at least in the red zones, where coronavirus cases have been on the rise, some states said the Union government should identify sectors to revive economic activity, especially in rural areas where the winter crop is being harvested.

States also said that restrictions on mass-gatherings in malls, public transport or religious events, should not be relaxed as it could reverse the benefits of the nationwide lockdown to control the pandemic. A section of state governments said lockdown restrictions can be eased a little in areas identified as green zones, but it should continue both in red and orange zones.

“The most important thing for the union government and also the state government is to ensure that the level of fear among people is brought down. Governments have to come together to ensure that people feel safe and are confident that both central and state governments are taking steps to control the coronavirus. The second most important issue is to think of ways to gradually come out of the lockdown in a phased manner,” a senior National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leader from Bihar said, requesting anonymity.

This will be the third meeting between Modi and the chief ministers in the past one month. During the earlier meeting on 11 April, most states had demanded an extension of the nationwide lockdown. Subsequently, the Union government had decided to extend it by 19 days till 3 May.

Meanwhile, the Telangana government is trying to ensure that no mass gatherings take place on the occasion of Ramzan. “We have to ensure that there are no religious gatherings and people follow lockdown rules. We also want that some economic activities should be allowed in rural areas and, if possible, in green zones of urban centres,” said a senior Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader.

Likewise, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), too, wants the Union government to identify sectors related to agriculture to kick-start economic activity.

Congress-ruled states, which had supported the extension of a lockdown, said efforts must be made to a “staggered” exit from the lockdown, and states should be allowed to decide which sectors should be opened up first.

“While in our state, agriculture has opened up to a considerable extent, we would like the focus to shift on opening up allied activities, including pesticide and tractors sale. We have an expert committee in place, which is helping us take a decision on the status of the lockdown,” a senior Punjab minister said, requesting anonymity.

On Sunday, the Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government constituted a group of experts under Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, to devise a medium- to long-term economic strategy for the state. It also has a panel to suggest ways to lift the lockdown.

“There can be no immediate switch-off from the lockdown. The messaging to the people should not be that everything is fine and we can go back to earlier times. The lockdown could be opened up in a gradual manner, may be focus on a few hours of a day for certain activities. Public transport can certainly not be opened at one go. No state is ready to face that scale of challenge,” a senior Chhattisgarh minister said, also requesting anonymity.


News Source; Livemint


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