Execution more stringent for a week; relaxation from April 20 for some economic activities in ‘safe’ areas after review, says Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the Union Government has decided to extend the nationwide lockdown till May 3 cautioning that regulations would be enforced with “greater strictness” for next one week before “limited relaxation” could be considered from April 20 in certain areas for the “poor”.
He said detailed guidelines on relaxation would be issued by the Government on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister, however, did not unfold any economic plan or package for the country even though Chief Ministers have been urging him to provide urgent relief and initiate steps to revive cash flow in the economy.
Modi prefaced the decision to extend the lockdown by claiming that India has done far better than the developed world in containing the pandemic because of the timely measures initiated by his Government.
However, health experts fear that numbers of positive cases are relatively low because of India’s low levels of testing and that the actual penetration of the infection levels could be higher.
Modi said while from an economic point of view the measure looks costly right now, the Government’s foremost priority is to save lives.
Lockdown has put a complete stop on economic activities in the county with economists observing that negative impact of the shutdown measures on several essential sectors, including the mining, agriculture, manufacturing and utility areas appearing, to be much higher than expected earlier.
According to an estimate, India may be losing close to 400 billion rupees daily due to the lockdown with an estimated loss amounting to as much as 8 trillion rupees during the past 21 days.
It was expected that the Government would open up key sectors, including road, transport, reality, and provide relaxations to small and medium business to revive the economy which was already in a slowdown mood in the pre-coronavirus period.
According to sources, the Government was considering a graded approach to opening up of economy and it would be announced it by April 20.
In his fourth address to nation since the lockdown, Modi said relaxations for harvesting seasons would be accorded to farmer to minimise their difficulties on account of the lockdown clamped since March 25 to contain coronavirus. “Till May 3, all countrymen have to follow the lockdown. We have to follow discipline during this period in the same manner that we have been doing so far,” Modi said.
He asked public to implement social distancing sincerely so that “new hotspots” of coronavirus are not developed which would put country “in greater crisis” and set more challenges for it.
The Prime Minister said “greater strictness” would be enforced through the next week at State, district and mandal level and situation would be analysed whether relaxation could be given after April 20.
“Areas which do not develop hotspots will be given relaxation with some riders and if lockdown rules are broken, the same will be withdrawn”, he said warning against “carelessness”.
“Easing the difficulty of poor people, farmers is among my top priorities”, said the Prime Minister.
Modi suggested seven steps for the citizens during the lock down which include taking extra-care of senior citizens, adopt social distancing and wear mask, downloading Arogya app, feed poor and respect corona warriors.
Against the backdrop of large-scale sacking of employees in the country, particularly in the media sector, the Prime Minister also counselled employers to not to resort to retrenchment and advised them to pay salaries to employees during the lockdowon distress.
Modi maintained that early measures taken by his Government had limited the damage done by the pandemic in the country in comparison to some of the developed countries across the world.
“The country has benefited from social distancing and lockdown and that India is in a much better position than many other nations in Covid-19 fight”, Modi said.
Since the first lockdown of three-week, the unemployment rate has almost doubled to around 14.5 per cent, according data compiled by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a Mumbai based private think-tank.
Experts feel the Government would need to strike a judicious balance between saving “lives” and ‘livelihood’ and open up economic activities in conjunction with “social distancing” which should be a new normal now.
Wednesday, 15 April 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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