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Coronavirus | Prime Minister hints at calibrated exit from lockdown

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Modi asks for suggestions at a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers.

After an interaction with Chief Ministers via videoconference on Thursday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday sought suggestions from his Council of Ministers on how to make a calibrated exit from the 21-day lockdown that was imposed from March 25 owing to the outbreak of COVID-19. He also elicited ways and means from them to bolster domestic manufacture as the pandemic had brought home the fact that essential goods manufacture within the country is very important.

Also read: Coronavirus | Number of cases doubled in 4.1 days due to Tablighi Jamaat event, says Health Ministry

Mr. Modi asked the Ministers to coordinate with the district authorities for not just harvesting and procuring agricultural produce but also preparing business continuity plans to address the economic situation once the containment ends. 

At a meeting of the Council of Ministers, just before a first-ever Cabinet meeting via videoconference, he asked for the suggestions, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that any rollback of the lockdown on April 14 will be in a very calibrated manner. 

“Prime Minister Modi asked all of us for suggestions, including after speaking to district-level officials and stakeholders on how the rollback of the lockdown could be effected without a huge impact on positive cases. Actually, the calculations of our peak cases and its timing are now awry as they have to factor in the Tablighi Jamaat cases, which are still being followed up,” said a Minister who was at the meeting.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

“The peak for India, which was supposed to have manifested itself this week has now been pushed to the next week or more because we are still tracking the contact chain of the Tablighi Jamaat cases,” the source said but pointed out that Mr. Modi did not mention these issues.

“We were asked to think in terms of micro plans for districts and specifically focus on the harvest season now on as well as how best procurement can be done from farmers. He spoke about coming up with innovative ideas for getting the harvest to the mandis for sale, like starting a “truck aggregator” system just like a cab aggregator system in urban areas. Also, he asked us for suggestions on how some industry can be restarted where labour can work with adequate social distancing safeguards,” the source stated. 

‘Make in India’ 

Mr. Modi asserted that the situation called for bolstering domestic manufacture and asked the Ministers to see how ‘Make in India’ could be worked out in this scenario. “Business continuity plans after the lockdown is lifted were also asked, as the economy needs a rescue act,” said a source. 

Government sources (other than the Ministers at the meeting on Monday) told The Hindu that all sorts of suggestions were placed at the discussion table, but it seemed as though reopening of schools and colleges would not be done in a hurry, not least because many now are shelters for the homeless and migrant labour and quarantine centres. 

Even railway and air traffic are unlikely to resume anytime soon, possibly in a staggered manner. 

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri took to Twitter on Sunday to clarify his Ministry’s position. “The current lockdown of both domestic and international passenger flights is till April 15. A decision to restart the flights after this period remains to be taken. If required, we will have to assess the situation on a case to case basis,” he said. 

Amid the developments, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath extended Section 144 (which bars assembly of more than four persons in public) to the entire State till April 30.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 6:17:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-pm-modi-hints-at-calibrated-exit-from-lockdown/article31271609.ece

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