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Published On: Sat, Apr 11th, 2020

CMs Sought Financial Package, Extension in Lockdown

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PM-Narendra-Modi-sets-an-example-wearing-a-homemade-mask-in-CM-meeting-696x392NEW DELHI : The Centre on Saturday took into consideration the extension of lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, after holding a video conference with the state chief ministers.
The video conference with chief ministers was held primarily to take their feedback on whether the 21-day nationwide lockdown be extended beyond April 14 to stem the tide of the infections.

The video conference, which began at 11am, comes amidst indications that the central government may extend the nationwide lockdown with some possible relaxations even as Punjab and Odisha have already announced extending the lockdown beyond April 14.

During the meeting, most states requested PM Narendra Modi to extend the lockdown for two more weeks and the government is considering this request. The PM will take a final call soon. The ongoing lockdown is set to end on April 14.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen in a cloth mask during a video conference with chief ministers to discuss about the lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has killed 239 and infected over 7,400 in India.
“PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India’s position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is imp to extend it,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted minutes after the meeting.
After the meeting, PM Modi asserted that he has emphasized that to save the life of every citizen, lockdown and adherence to social distancing is very important. “Most of the people of the country understood this and stayed indoors and performed their duties. All of us followed this to save the lives of our countrymen.

PM Modi told the CMs that he is available round the clock. “I am always available. Any chief minister can speak to me and give suggestions (on COVID-19) anytime. We should stand together shoulder-to-shoulder,” PM Modi said during the meeting.

PM Modi is likely to give a televised address to the nation again to announce the lockdown extension. At the end of the four-hour meet today, PM Modi said he will allow industries and construction work to reopen in a graded manner. Other restrictions are also likely to be eased in a graded manner and another economic package for farmers is expected.
Sources say, after the prime minister’s “jaan bhi jahaan bhi” comment, the council of ministers has been asked to resume work in ministries from Monday. PM Modi indicated that farmers would be allowed to sell to consumers directly from their fields if wholesale vegetable markets or mandis are shut down.
For example, the mandis in Mumbai and Pune are closed. This direct selling will be needed to feed a nation of 1.3 billion and prevent inflationary trends, sources said. PM said the government proposes to segregate the construction industry into “Green”, “Orange” and “Red” zones and will tell the states on how activity can be restarted in this sector in a graded manner.
Ten out of eleven chief ministers have called for extending the lockdown. During the meeting, the chief ministers of Delhi and Punjab suggested extension of the nationwide lockdown till April 30, which was backed by other CMs. During the interaction, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh suggested extension of the national lockdown by at least a fortnight after April 14.
This is for the second time the prime minister is interacting with the chief ministers via video link after the lockdown was imposed. During his April 2 interaction with chief ministers, Modi had pitched for a “staggered” exit from the ongoing lockdown.

Meanwhile, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy on Saturday said the chief ministers of various states sought a financial package from the Centre as they were facing a fund crunch in the absence of any economic activity due to the ongoing lockdown.

He added that the chief ministers pointed towards the slowdown in the economy and told the prime minister that as the states are not generating any revenue due to the lockdown, they are not equipped to handle the situation.
They urged the Centre for financial assistance, Narayanasamy said, adding that most of the chief ministers also raised the issue of migrant labourers and poor people losing their livelihood, and sought steps from the Union government to help them. But PM did not say anything on this in his reply,”
The Puducherry chief minister also said his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee raised the issue of governors and lieutenant governors (LGs) interfering with the functioning of the state governments and urged the prime minister to “control them”.

“The West Bengal chief minister specifically said that during this period of crisis, governors and LGs are playing politics and trying to interfere in the administration and functioning of the states. She told the prime minister to control the governors and LGs, who should not interfere in the day-to-day functioning of the state governments,” she said, adding that Modi did not say anything on this either in his reply.
Asked if Modi gave any assurance to the chief ministers on their demands, Narayanasamy said, “You know our prime minister. Even in Parliament, he does not reply to the MPs and similarly, he did not reply to the chief ministers either.”
The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act that governs how mandis function will be amended to enable farmers to skip the supply chain and reach consumers directly, sources said.

Odisha and Punjab have already announced an extension of the lockdown. The Bihar government in a letter to the centre has raised no objection to extending the lockdown; however, it wants an exception for rural construction and flood relief work to continue, sources have told NDTV. Bihar saw massive floods last year and rebuilding projects are still going on.
The highly infectious COVID-19 has killed 239 people in the country, with 40 new deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The total number of positive coronavirus cases is now 7,447.
(With Agency Inputs ).

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