In a major decision, the Congress government in Rajasthan on Monday announced a package worth ₹2,000 crore for supporting the poor, disadvantaged and marginalised people who have been deprived of their livelihood during the lockdown enforced in the State to contain the spread of coronavirus. About 1.41 crore families will benefit from the package.
The State government also banned all private vehicles on roads during the lockdown till March 31. Only the vehicles related to essential services and those in the exempted categories will be allowed from Tuesday, while the State highway toll booths will be closed from midnight.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot gave instructions after a high-level meeting here to immediately release social security pensions for two months to 78 lakh beneficiaries. A cash assistance of ₹1,000 each will be given to 36 lakh families covered in the below poverty line (BPL) and Antyodaya Yojana as well as 25 lakh construction workers and registered street vendors not covered in social security schemes.
“With the cash in their hands, the poor people will be able to meet their daily needs when they are unable to earn,” Mr. Gehlot said. The State government had earlier announced the release of foodgrains free of cost for the next two months to the families covered in the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The State government will also supply ration packets to the needy people not covered in the NFSA either with the help of donors and philanthropists or by utilising untied funds available with the District Collectors. “There will be no shortage of money and resources for helping out the poor... Nobody will go to bed hungry,” Mr. Gehlot said.
Mr. Gehlot asked the people to consider the lockdown seriously as a “self-imposed curfew” in order to protect their lives. “Behave as you do in a curfew and stay in your homes strictly. Either people understand the seriousness, remain in their homes or else we will have to impose curfew in the State,” he warned in a message posted on twitter.
The vehicles of essential services, allowed on roads, will include those of police, health care, water and power supply, disaster management and civil supplies. The exempted categories include the vehicles carrying vegetables, fruits, medicines, milk, petrol, LPG cylinders and newspapers.
The State government also decided to prepare 1 lakh quarantine beds where the COVID-19 positive patients could be shifted in an emergency situation. The beds will be situated in the hotels, hospitals, houses, hostels of recently closed educational institutions and other appropriately located buildings.
Each district was asked to prepare quarantine beds, while the highest number of 10,000 beds will be arranged in Jaipur. While asking the district administration to take the help of Army, paramilitary forces, home guards and civil defence in tackling the crisis, the State government also created a fund of ₹25 crore for doctors and paramedical staff engaged in the fight against the dreaded virus.
Medical & Health Minister Raghu Sharma said the prohibitory orders in force in the State during the lockdown would restrict the assembly of people to five or less. Earlier, there was a ban on the assembly of 20 or more people. Those found violating the order will be booked under Section 188 (disobedience of order) of Indian Penal Code.
Mr. Sharma said 29 persons had been arrested in different towns on charges of flouting prohibitory orders and spreading rumours on social media. Besides, strict action was being taken to prevent hoarding and black marketing of masks, sanitiser and foodgrains.
The number of COVID-19 positive cases in the State was 32 on Monday, with four new cases detected in Jodhpur and Pratapgarh. Additional Chief Secretary (Medical & Health) Rohit Kumar Singh said a total of 1,227 samples were tested so far, out of which 1,112 were found negative and 83 were being processed. Three coronavirus patients were cured, though one of them - an Italian tourist - later died of heart failure.
A COVID-19 Relief Fund has been established in the State to receive donations from public. Mr. Gehlot decided that all Ministers would contribute ₹1 lakh each and the Congress MLAs would give their one-month salary to the fund to combat coronavirus. A statement from Raj Bhawan said that the Governor, Kalraj Mishra, would donate his one-month salary to the fund.
Mr. Gehlot also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the request for a relief package for the unorganised sector workers and to ensure food and social security for the weaker sections. He also sought concessions for tourism industry, hotels and micro, small and medium enterprises affected by the COVID-19 crisis.