Coronavirus lockdown | Centre passing the buck to States, says Congress

Onus to tackle pandemic left to States, says Kapil Sibal

April 25, 2020 07:05 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:23 am IST - New Delhi

Congress MP Kapil Sibal. File

Congress MP Kapil Sibal. File

The Centre should have a national plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic under the Disaster Management Act rather than delegating all the responsibility to the State governments, the Congress party said on Saturday, adding that there is a need to rethink the decision for a nationwide lockdown.

Also read: Coronavirus | India records lowest daily growth rate in COVID-19 cases

The countrywide lockdown that was imposed on March 24 , is expected to end on May 3 .

‘Economic lockout’

“You can’t have a lockdown of people and a lockout of the economy. That’s not the way to formulate a policy. We are not criticising. We are only saying it is time to rethink. We are with the government. This is constructive criticism,” Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal told reporters as he addressed a video-press conference.


The lockdown was imposed without consulting the State governments and the migrant workers were left to fend for themselves, Mr. Sibal added.

As per the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Union government was duty bound to formulate a National Plan to deal with COVID-19. however, the Home Secretary, presiding over the National Executive Committee (NEC) under the Act, is issuing directions to State governments to deal with the situation as best as they can, Mr. Sibal said.

Also read: COVID-19 | Revised guidelines issued by MHA

On March 27, the MHA directed States to provide support to migrant labour, industrial workers and those in the unorganised sector impacted by the 21-day lockdown. On March 28, the MHA asked the State governments to set up relief camps for them to stay till the lockdown is lifted. On March 29, in yet another advisory, the MHA emphasised the necessity of ensuring the adequate arrangement of temporary shelters and provision of food for the poor including migrant labour stranded due to lockdown. The MHA further directed that employers in industry, shops and commercial establishments are mandated to make payment of wages to workers at their work places on the due date without deduction during the period of lockdown.


“Section 10(2) of the Act authorises the NEC headed by the secretary, MHA to assist the NDMA in the discharge of its responsibilities under the Act. What the MHA failed to mention is that the NEC under Section 10(2)(b) is to prepare the plan to be approved by the NDMA and lay down guidelines for preparing disaster management plans by different ministries. The NEC is also to monitor implementation of plans prepared by the ministries,” Mr Sibal explained the legal position.

Also read: Centre’s relief measures on statutory, regulatory compliance matters

Taking a dig, he said Prime Minister Modi’s limited role seems to be addressing the nation from time to time. “Without the necessary infrastructure, both human and physical, and adequate financial resources, State governments are not in a position to effectively deal with this pandemic. Apart from a few exceptions, with available yet depleting resources, they are doing a commendable job,” Mr Sibal said.

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