Mamata Banerjee for shutdown ‘with human face’

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/mamata-banerjee-for-shutdown-with-human-face/articleshow/75102875.cms

KOLKATA: Bengal chief minister
Mamata Banerjee said on Saturday that she will go along with Prime Minister
Narendra Modi over his proposal to extend the Covid-19
lockdown for another two weeks till April 30, but emphasised that she would enforce the shutdown in Bengal with a human face to balance life and livelihood.

“The PM, during the video conference, said the lockdown will be extended till April 30. We have already said that we will support whatever decision the Centre takes in this regard. The PM also said the next two weeks are going to be very crucial and critical. I told the PM that there should be strict enforcement, but no overzealousness,” the CM said at the state secretariat Nabanna.

Mamata’s “humane lockdown” will be a mix of restrictions and relaxations, but different from curfew. Under the lockdown regulations in Bengal, people will have to stay home and maintain social distancing while going to the market, medicine shop, grocery or ration shop to buy essentials. All schools, however, will remain closed till June 10.

“There is no need to go to the market at a particular hour in the morning because they will remain open from 10 am to 6 pm,” the CM said. The state administration will use drones to check if people are crowding markets.

To ease supply of essentials, home delivery of goods will be allowed while flour mills, oil mills and bakeries will be allowed to resume operations — they will have to follow strict sanitization rules — to ensure availability of commodities. There will also be a few taxis on the roads for people to avail in emergency.

There will, however, be a total ban on crowding of streets and on gatherings of all sorts, including religious ones. “I will not be going to the Kali temple the night before Poila Boisakh (Bengali New Year day on April 15). This will be the first time in my life that I won’t be visiting the Kali temple on the day. I urge all of you to celebrate the Bengali New Year at home,” Mamata said.

The CM’s announcement came after a letter from the Union ministry of home affairs addressed to the state chief secretary pointed to “lax enforcement” of lockdown in certain areas.

With an eye on the coming harvesting season in a state that contributes 17% to the country’s total rice produce, the CM gave relaxations for harvesting of boro and
rabi crops. She also allowed tea gardens to resume operations with 25% of their labour force. Small-scale units and MSMEs will also be allowed to start operations if they have space to house the workers on their campus, Mamata said.

The government, however, will tighten containment measures in areas across the state where people have tested positive for Covid-19, the CM said.

“We are into an elaborate micro-planning to zoom into these areas. These areas can be a multi-storied building, a lane or bylane. I have spoken to Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim. The KMC will sanitise the wards, one after another. We are not going to cordon off the entire area. There are reports indicating that large areas such as Burrabazar, Bagbazar, Parnashree, BagriMarket, the whole of Howrah will be cordoned off. These are all baseless. Markets will remain open but may be scattered to prevent overcrowding. We have asked for 50,000 testing kits from the Centre to ramp up random tests in these sensitive areas. How can we follow the revised ICMR guidelines if we don’t get the kits?” the CM said.

Mamata also seized the opportunity during the video-conference with the PM to demand a Rs 10-lakh crore financial package for states to help them tackle the Covid pandemic. “The Centre has released Rs 1.7 lakh crore for this purpose. The amount is less than even 1% of India’s GDP. Other Covid-hit countries like US have allocated 10% of its GDP, UK 15% and Japan 20% to fight the virus,” she mentioned.

This apart, the CM wants the Centre to clear Rs 36,000 crore it owes to the state and grant a Rs 25,000 crore financial package for Bengal in view of its high debt-servicing component. Banerjee pointed out that the Centre is yet to keep its GST promise to states and release Rs 2,393 crore on account of GST from December to March.

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