CMs suggested extending lockdown to the PM during a video-conference meet.
The consensus was reached during a high-level interaction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chief Ministers and LGs through video conferencing. The interaction was organised to chalk out a strategy ahead of tackling the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Talking to the Chief Ministers, Modi said: “Our mantra earlier was ‘jaan hai to jahaan hai’, but now it is ‘jaan bhi jahaan bhi’. Next 3-4 weeks are going to be critical to determine the impact of steps taken till now to curb spread of the virus.”
During the interaction, the PM suggested specific measures for agriculture and allied sectors, including modification of APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) laws to facilitate sale of farm produce. He assured that the country has adequate supplies of essential medicines and warned that those involved in black marketing and hoarding will be dealt with firmly.
This was the third such interaction of the PM with Chief Ministers which was also attended by Union Home Minister, Defence Minister, Health Minister, Principal Secretary, Cabinet Secretary and other senior officials of Government of India. Modi, as well as the Chief Ministers, were seen wearing a mask during the interaction.
Official sources said the PM observed that the combined efforts of the Centre and the states have definitely helped reduce the impact of Covid-19, but since the situation is rapidly evolving, constant vigilance is paramount. He emphasised the criticality of the coming 3-4 weeks for determining the impact of the steps taken till now to contain the virus.
The Prime Minister also spoke about popularising the Aarogya Setu application to ensure downloads in greater numbers. He referred to how South Korea and Singapore got success in contact tracing. Based on those experiences, India has made its own effort through the application which will be an essential tool in India’s fight against the pandemic, he said. He also referred to the possibility of the application being an e-pass which could subsequently facilitate travel from one place to another.
During the interaction, the Chief Ministers provided feedback about the Covid positive cases in their respective states, steps taken by them to maintain social distancing, ramp up healthcare infrastructure, mitigate difficulties of migrants and maintain supply of essentials. The Chief Ministers suggested that the lockdown should be extended by two weeks. They also sought financial and fiscal assistance from the Centre to boost their resources in this fight against the pandemic.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said after the meeting that the PM has taken the correct decision to extend the lockdown. In a tweet, he said, “Today, India’s position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is imp(ortant) to extend it.”
Telangana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao batted for lockdown extension, but urged the PM to address problems faced by different sections, including agricultural operations and the livelihood of small businesses, survival of migrant labourers and unemployment.
Andhra Pradesh CM Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is learnt to have not vocally pressed for extension of lockdown, but authorised the PM to take any decision in the overall interests of the country. AP is comparatively safe in both positive cases as well as deaths. But both KCR and Jagan brought to the PM’s notice the financial problems of their states which have nil incomes since 22 March. The PM, according to sources, assured the CMs that their financial needs would be taken care by the Centre. “I will be available to you (CMs) round-the-clock and you can contact me for any help at any time. We will certainly stand by you in this hour of difficulty and appreciate you all for handling the situation so well till now,” PM Modi told the CMs. KCR convened a Cabinet subsequently to extend the lockdown, possibly till the end of April, and deal with other burning problems faced by farmers, students and small and medium businesses and other wage earners. The biggest problem before the states is rescheduling the class 10 examinations which have been postponed in the middle of the schedule.
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren called for increasing the pay and number of work days under MGNREGA. Soren also called for the state’s share of goods and services tax to be released immediately and a year’s moratorium on interest. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reportedly demanded a national package to counter the pandemic and its impact and relief for the micro, small and medium enterprises sector. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray suggested allowing industrial activity within the four walls.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan called for special non-stop trains to be arranged for the stranded people in different parts of country and broad-basing the income support schemes for three months. Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik called for GST waiver on personal protective equipment (PPE) and medicines. Speaking during the interaction, MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan conveyed his view that the lockdown should not be withdrawn. He informed the Prime Minister about the steps being taken by his government to fight the pandemic in the state.