Stoppered supply lines with trucks waiting on highways, the ongoing harvest season and procurement of food grains in various parts of the country are some of the issues that will inform the kind of lockdown the country will continue to have post April 14.
Government sources said that smoothening the supply lines that have still to be seamless and the harvest and procurement season have complicated the issue of the kind of lockdown to have.
“Harvesting is very important, as is procurement as there are standing crops and they need to be taken care of. Mandis etc do not lend themselves to social distancing,” said a government source. Various micro plans are being considered for various States and an overall advisory on how to go about enforcing the behaviour required for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 is likely to be sent out.
On Friday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said each district with groups of farmers would be given specific dates for bringing their crops to the mandis for procurement and the number of mandis would be increased from 1,900 to over 3,000 to make the operations smaller, leading to fewer crowds.
Such district specific plans are being sought from every State.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce his decision on the continuation of the lockdown after consulting the Chief Ministers through a videoconference on Saturday, harvesting and movement of trucks will be likely exempt.
At a meeting held by P K Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, with the empowered group of officials set up to tackle the COVID-19 crisis on Friday, the issue of shelters being run for migrant workers and the homeless was also brought up. Mr. Mishra emphasised that “data sanctity” be maintained to ensure the transfer of benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana as well as close coordination with NGOs and other organisations for the same.
“It was pointed out that there were many people who did not have a ration card to avail the free grain distribution undertaken by the government and the instructions were to distribute grains to all,” said a government source.
“In Jharkhand and at least two divisions of Bihar, there were reports of shortages of supplies and instructions were given to address these,” said the source. “If needed, Food Corporation of India stocks would be unlocked to make sure there was enough supply.”
With much economic activity at a standstill due to the lockdown, it appears that harvesting and procurement at least, will be exempted from it, while big urban areas will continue to be under strict lockdown.
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