Coronavirus lockdown | Tamil Nadu sticks with e-passes; Puducherry abolishes system

Tamil Nadu Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar says Centre’s decision asking States not to impose restrictions inter- and intra-State movement would pose a challenge to COVID-19 management work.

August 24, 2020 12:01 am | Updated 12:01 am IST - Chennai/Puducherry

Police patrols were withdrawn from border points in Puducherry. T. Singaravelou

Police patrols were withdrawn from border points in Puducherry. T. Singaravelou

A day after Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla wrote to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories, asking them not to impose restrictions on inter- and intra-State movement, Puducherry removed all travel restrictions on Sunday.

However, Tamil Nadu continued to enforce the e-pass system.

Coronavirus lockdown | Free intra-State movement happening, says Tamil Nadu

In Coimbatore, State Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar said the Centre’s decision would pose a challenge to COVID-19 management work.

He, however, added, “At the same time [if the e-pass system is abolished], people should abide by the instructions issued by the State government and the Health Department to control the spread of the disease.”

DMK president and Leader of the Opposition M.K. Stalin said Tamil Nadu should take a cue from Puducherry and “resurrect urban and rural livelihoods” lost during the pandemic.

A top official of the State government told The Hindu that the matter would be discussed with Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami when he returns to the State capital.

On Saturday, the official had said that by introducing a liberalised e-pass system, the government was facilitating the free movement of people within the State.

‘Only regulation’

He said the e-pass system was being enforced for the purpose of keeping a record. There was “no restriction”, but only ‘regulation’. Besides, there was “absolutely no problem” with regard to the movement of goods, he said.

“If contact tracing is to be performed effectively, the e-pass system becomes imperative as this will provide the basis [for carrying it out],” he said.

As long as there were “inter-regional variations” in the spread of the disease across the country, there existed a need for restrictions on the inter-State movement of people, he argued. Otherwise, the country may witness a “uniform peak” in the disease spread, which would “only cause much more stress” on health infrastructure than the current situation does.

The official added that contact tracing had to be ‘abandoned’ if there was “no regulation or restriction” of the movement of people.

Meanwhile, Puducherry suspended the e-pass portal.

“In pursuance with [sic] government directives, this website is being discontinued with immediate effect. There is no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/approval/e-permit will be required for such movements, as per MHA order,” a notice on the now-closed portal said.

Following the disbanding of the e-pass system, police presence was skeletal or non-existent at several border points.

A senior officer said the police presence had not been completely withdrawn from all border points. “We are awaiting an SOP from the administration. On Sunday, police patrols were still conducting random checks”, C. Maran, SP (East), said.

Though the removal of the restrictions comes at a particularly difficult time, when the graph of COVID-19 cases in Puducherry is showing an upward trend, the official view is that allowing free entry/exit of people would not have any bearing on the pandemic situation.

“We are following the considered view of the Centre that, at this point, the economic cost of continuing with restrictions is greater than any likely benefit,” Chief Secretary Ashwani Kumar said.

Medical teams will continue to be posted at major check-points, Health Secretary and District Collector T. Arun said.

Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy will convene a meeting on Monday to frame an SOP for travellers, he added.

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