Kerala against the abrupt end of lockdown on May 3

A TV grab of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (front), accompanied by Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and other dignitaries, during an interaction with the Chief Ministers of various States/UTs via video conferencing on April 27, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Kerala government has argued against an abrupt lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on May 3. It has instead sought a progressive dialling down of curfew stipulations aimed at liberating relatively safe localities first and high-risk areas later.

Officials said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had appraised Union Home Minister Amit Shah of the State's opinion during a protracted interaction in the run-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interaction with Chief Ministers on Monday.

They scotched news reports that Mr Vijayan had excused himself from the video conference with Mr Modi at the last minute allegedly because the Centre had not invited him to speak at the critical interaction.

Mr Vijayan had laid out the State's case in detail with Mr Modi in the previous video conference of Chief Ministers. Moreover, it was the turn for the Chief Ministers of nine other States, who did not get the opportunity to speak at the previous meeting, to raise their demands with the Centre, the officials said.

Hence, Mr Vijayan had tasked Chief Secretary Tom Jose in advance to stand-in for him at the conference. The government had also informed its decision in the matter to the Union Cabinet secretary.

Officials said that Mr Vijayan, in his interaction with Mr Shah, had stressed the need to keep Kerala, a predominantly consumer State, well supplied to ensure its food security.

Mr Vijayan said cross border movement of freight was essential to keep the State's rice, wheat, sugar, pulses and edible oil stock at the optimal storage level.

( The intense lockdown in five districts in Tamil Nadu till April 29 had whittled down movement of cargo lorries into Kerala. There were reports that rice consignments bound for Kerala from Andhra Pradesh were held up.)

Kerala has also urged the Centre to operate special trains to ferry an estimated 3.5 lakh migrant workers hunkered down without wages or work in scores of labour camps across Kerala. Most relied on free rations and food supplied by the government to survive and were desperate to return home.

Mr Vijayan told the Centre that the impending arrival of tens of thousands on non-resident Keralites from COVID-19-affected countries, especially in the Gulf would further stretch its limited finances. Public health expenditure was set to rise sharply. Kerala could ill-afford to have its COVID-19 caseload shoot up.

Moreover, the State urgently need a financial stimulus package to repair its battered economy. Remittances from the Gulf has registered a sharp fall. Vital sectors, such as tourism, required rejuvenation.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 1:13:04 AM |

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