Coronavirus Outbreak: At least 10 CMs ask PM to consider extending lockdown till April-end
The suggestions included continuing the lockdown of airports, railway stations and metro trains
New Delhi: If the Chief Ministers' conference on Saturday, a third in less than two weeks, convened by PM Modi is an indication, there has been a growing unanimity that the ongoing shutdown should continue "at least for two more weeks".
The CMs also seemed to agree on opening up the rural economy, especially grain markets. The suggestions included continuing the lockdown of airports, railway stations and metro trains.
There were indications that the Prime Minister's Office is contemplating a graded lifting of lockdown measures, and marking the country into red, yellow and green zones, depending on the severity of the coronavirus spread.
The PMO will also review the situation with top officials and experts, sources added. After the meeting with CMs, the Prime Minister indicated in his remarks that based on recommendations of states, the lockdown might be extended by two weeks.
Sources indicated that at least ten Chief ministers "strongly advocated" an extension of the ongoing shutdown. While some CMs have advised the PM to extend it "at least for the rest of April", some have advocated "caution", in case he decides against extending it.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has suggested the extension of the nationwide shutdown for "at least a fortnight". The CM has already extended the shutdown in Punjab till May 1.
Singh is believed to have asked for a slew of relief measures, particularly one-time increase in borrowing limit from 3% to 4% of states' GDP by amending the FRBM Act. Sources say Singh has also sought "bonus" for farmers in the harvesting season. Punjab has one of the highest number of big farmers who have been finding it tough to locate labour for harveadsting during the shutdown.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal too batted for a "strict implementation and continuation" of the current shutdown "at least till April-end".
Kejriwal, who is battling a crisis due to the Nizamuddin congregation in Delhi, has requested PM Modi to formulate a nationwide shutdown policy rather than leaving it to the states to formulate their own system.
Many states such as Rajasthan and Punjab have already formulated their own strategy, independent of the PM's announcement of further course of action. "State-specific announcements won't be as effective," Kejriwal is believed to have told PM through video conferencing on Saturday.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan thanked the Prime Minister for being available over phone. The PM told all CMs on Saturday that he would be available over phone for them 24/7, given the seriousness of the situation.
India, as on Saturday morning, has seen 6,565 active COVID-19 cases. Chauhan too batted against removing the lockdown. He also informed the PM that Madhya Pradesh has crisis management teams working at district levels on a war footing. Earlier, in his meeting with floor leaders of different parties, the PM had indicated the same. IANS reported on April 2 that PM Modi is aggressively considering extending the current shutdown.
At Saturday's meeting, a few CMs including Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray came wearing the face mask and PM Modi too was spotted wearing a white face cover. Rajasthan and Odisha which have extended the shutdown made a strong pitch for nationwide shutdown as well. At the CMs' meeting, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath too favoured extending the lockdown till April-end.
On Friday, Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar, during a Fecbook address to ABVP cadre in JNU gave the clearest indication of the extended shutdown. "A few states have extended the shutdown because measures such as this are the only ways we can win the battle. If we have to get ready for another 15 days, we will need new volunteers."
The current shutdown ends on the night of April 14.
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