Expect aid from Centre for basic requirements: Manohar Lal Khattar

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar spoke to R Sukumar about the impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Haryana’s economy, the need to test more people, the migrant movement, restarting business activity, the Tablighi Jamaat cases, and the return to normalcy.
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar says he is expecting help from the Centre in the form of grants so that we can meet out basic requirements.(Photo by Yogendra Kumar / Hindustan Times)
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar says he is expecting help from the Centre in the form of grants so that we can meet out basic requirements.(Photo by Yogendra Kumar / Hindustan Times)
Updated on Apr 13, 2020 06:23 AM IST
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Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar spoke to R Sukumar about the impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Haryana’s economy, the need to test more people, the migrant movement, restarting business activity, the Tablighi Jamaat cases, and the return to normalcy. Edited excerpts:

Even as Haryana’s economy is considered very robust, how will the ongoing lockdown impact the state’s economy and its fundamentals?
We are staring at 4,000 crore revenue loss in April, which was 2,300 crore in March. We have committed liabilities such as payment of debt, interest on loan, advances, salary, pension etc. When there is a shortage in revenue, we can apply the brakes on capital expenditure, but not on committed expenditure. We will have to make payments. We need about 4,000 crore per month and we are expecting to anyhow generate just 1,000 crore revenue. Hence, the way forward is to take a loan. Central assistance or grants is another way out. We made arrangements in first month, but if this continues, it will be very difficult to manage. On Saturday, during the video conference with the Prime Minister, chief ministers urged PM that there should be a system in place to help all the states to tide over this fiscal crisis. We will certainly find a way out.

What type of help you are expecting from the Centre?
I am expecting help from the Centre in the form of grants so that we can meet out basic requirements. The percentage of the debt should be increased from the existing 3%. The rules concerning raising loans should be relaxed. If it is done, we can go for the loan instead of depending on the Centre for monetary help. We have to make arrangements for 4,000 crore per month till the lockdown. If we get 1,000 crore revenue receipts, we need 3,000 crore. This can be in the shape of debt, in the shape of a grant, or in the shape of a special package. It depends.

What are your expectations. When will the economic activity start?
As the Prime Minister has indicated, we will have to move towards economic activity also, while taking utmost care of lockdown and social distancing. We must have a plan in place. While four districts in the National Capital Region (NCR) -- Palwal, Nuh, Gurugram, Faridabad -- will be categorised as the Covid “hot spots” or “red zones’’, meaning highly vulnerable, all the remaining 18 other districts will be partially or completely put in the two different categories of orange or green zones. A lockdown will be enforced in Red Zone. In the green zone, small and medium industry will be allowed to start operations, provided the entrepreneur give us an undertaking to fulfil the guidelines in letter and spirit. We want small industry to start its operations at lower capacity first. We will issue directions in this connection very shortly to help industry come out of this crisis.

Out of 22 districts, cases are coming from four districts. What’s your lockdown release plan?
We have declared the four districts hot spots. Naturally, other districts where there are no cases will fall in the green zone. We will take commitment from all industrialists to maintain social distancing while starting the factories. We will form social distancing plan committees up to block level.

So far, there have been 4,000 tests. How and when will the state increase its testing?
Two days ago, we have increased the number of testing labs. Earlier, we had just two labs, now permission has been given to five private labs. Now we have eight labs functioning and two or three more labs will start testing in a week or so. Thus, our target is to go for more than a 1,000 tests a day in dozen-odd labs in the days to come. Rapid antibody testing is on the cards. We have placed orders for more than 100,000 testing kits.

Are you buying them from China?
No, no... we have placed order within the state. The states have exemption to buy such equipments on their own. We have kept 500 crore as reserve for purchasing equipment etc. for the coronavirus battle. We have collected roughly 150 crore as corona relief fund from people and employees. I am expecting 150 crore more donations for this fund.

By what time will the rapid testing kits be delivered?
I am expecting delivery within a week

This is the harvesting season, and so what are your plans? How will you manage social distancing and procurement simultaneously?
Last year, there were over 400 procurement centres. Now we have identified about 1,850 purchase centre across the state. School building, warehousing godowns, premises of rice shellers etc will be converted to purchase centres. Commission agents are on board. Mustard procurement will start on April 15, and wheat from April 20. We will stagger the procurement. Until last year, most of the procurement operations used to be over in 25 days; now we will stagger the procurement operations to two months. After starting on April 20, it will continue till June 20. We will regulate the arrival of farmers to mandis. In order to regulate and stagger the procurement, the Market Committee will issue online e-gate passes to allow the entry of the agricultural produce. The passes will be issued only to registered and verified farmers on “Meri Fasal Mera Byora” portal.

The farmers will be allowed to visit Mandi in two time slots from 8am to 2pm and from 2:30pm to 6pm. The Rabi procurement season (wheat, mustard and gram) will start from April 15 and continue till June 30. Wheat procurement will start from April 20.

At a macro level, what type of impact will this crisis have on the economy?
Huge impact. First, the temporary jobs -- like those of daily wagers and jobs given through the outsourcing -- will be affected. Tourism will suffer a lot. There will be a dip in demand of luxurious goods, there will be a setback to tourism -- all these things will definitely happen. While one sector will revive, another sector will continue to take a hit and struggle. When this type of crisis takes place, we will have to make people aware about their responsibilities. We will have to shun the ‘I, me and mine’ attitude. After the lockdown is over, we have to educate people that we are for the state and for the country. People will have to change their outlook/approach towards work.

We will have to strengthen our health services. There is uncertainty in every sphere of life.

Apart from health, which are other areas you plan to focus on? What all do you plan to change/improve to run the state effectively in the post-lockdown scenario?
First, we have to strengthen the administrative system. How to run the administration even during social distancing is the challenge. To face this challenge, we are strengthening our online systems like running the administrative via videoconference etc.

The exchange of information needs to be accelerated and increased. We are working on creating 25,000 administrative units up to the block level having a minimum 200 houses and 1,000 population. District administration will play a major role in this. The objective is to ensure live contact with these 25,000 administrative units from the state to small units in village.

The big target is to ensure food for all, jobs for daily wagers and ensure administration and health remain effective.

How did Haryana handle the migrant labourers crisis?
Initially, there was a crisis for two days on March 29 and 30. Thousands of persons were on the roads. How to deal with this migration of labourers was a major challenge. We set up camps immediately along the roads and slowly they started returning. People even returned from Delhi back to Haryana. Later, we sealed our borders. At present, we have about 200 camps in which 15,500 migrant labourers are staying as of today.

Initially the number of camps had gone beyond 570. Once the number of migrant labourers staying in these camps had touched 55,000 for two days.

Migrants labourers who reached different parts of UP are in quarantine and are not getting the nod to reach their villages.

When will this crisis be over? Labour is required -- will these labourers come back?
Definitely, once the confidence of people start increasing, they will come. Everybody wants employment and transfer of population in such a big country for the purpose of jobs has happened earlier, and will continue again. Things will not come to a grinding halt. Normalcy must return. It will happen in a phased manner. Labourer wants jobs and the industrialists want manpower.

When will things return to normal?
This is a question that I think nobody in the world has an answer to, given the kind of situation that has been prevailing. America is in the grip of this disease due to a rising trend of the virus. We are not sure what China has done to flatten the curve. In every country, this is on the rising trend. But comparisons are natural. And when we compare Haryana, we are on a safer side. Unfortunately most of the cases in Haryana are of the Tablighi missionaries.

Have you traced all the people of Tablighi Jamaat?
There are some who are yet to come forward. Till two days ago, we had given opportunity to all of them to report. After that, we have registered cases against some of them who were caught; we had to act tough. We may again give them another chance to surrender. We don’t know if those who are yet to be traced are within the state or have managed to go out of the state.

There is a need of complete coordination at all levels. Your thoughts
I think across the country all of us are working unitedly and by removing their political barriers to fight this corona disease. we are one at every place...In Haryana, all the political parties are united in this fight. This crisis is not targeting one individual. This virus is posing risk to the entire humanity. Therefore, all of us with a dogged determination must fight it out from our respective place by resolving to maintain social distancing and following the lockdown norms.

I am confident of winning this battle. In Haryana the catchphrase is “Corona Haryana se harega, bharat se bhagega (Coronavirus will lose to Haryana, run away from India)”.

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