States look to ease curbs, restart interstate travel in lockdown 4.0
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said suggestions from the states would be considered for formulating guidelines for the next phase of the lockdown to check the pandemic spread, which is expected to begin from May 18.Updated: May 16, 2020 05:53 IST
Several states on Friday submitted their proposals for Covid-19 lockdown 4.0, asking the Centre to allow interstate travel, easier movement in non-containment zones and sectors like tourism and hospitality to restart work to revive the economy, multiple officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said suggestions from the states would be considered for formulating guidelines for the next phase of the lockdown to check the pandemic spread, which is expected to begin from May 18. He said the next set of the curbs are going to be different from the earlier lockdowns. The Centre is likely to allow more flexibility to the states in formulating the fresh lockdown guidelines.
Officials said Punjab has suggested doing away with the zoning system (red, orange and green) based on the scale of the Covid-19 cases with no activity allowed in the areas falling under the first category. It wants all activities to be allowed in non-containment areas. “We have also suggested that all public transport buses should run and shops, except malls, be allowed to open,” said an official on condition of anonymity. The state wants the lockdown to be extended till May end, the official added.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said they have written to the Centre seeking an extension of the lockdown by another two weeks and financial help. Sonowal said providing employment to a large number of migrants workers, who have returned to the state because of the lockdown, remains a big challenge.
Uttarkhand has sought permission to allow Char Dham pilgrimage and tourist activities, which are the mainstay of the state’s economy. “We have requested the Centre to allow some tourism activities in green zones and the opening of a few holy shrines. We also want work under the MGNREGS [National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme] to be allowed for 150 days [from 100 days annually],” said Uttarakhand minister Madan Kaushik.
Kaushik echoed ministers in other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states and said they will follow the Centre’s guidelines on the next phase of curbs.
Officials in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh said the chief ministers of these states have submitted their suggestions to the Centre and will provide details only after the notification on fresh guidelines is issued.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation on Friday announced buses in the city will run from Monday with a maximum 20 passengers on each bus and that police will ensure social distancing is maintained even as transport operators appeared sceptical. “It would be a difficult task [to limit passengers to 20] but we are making plans,” said Bengal Bus Syndicate honorary secretary Subrata Ghosh.
The traditional yellow-coloured cabs will also resume services in Kolkata from Monday with increased fares. “Passengers will have to pay 30% extra... Not more than two passengers will be allowed and they will have to sit on the back seat. They will also need to wear masks and sanitise their hands,” said Bengal Taxi Association general secretary Bimal Guha.
Gujarat has suggested the lockdown should be reviewed after two weeks. “We should see how people react to the relaxations and their impact on Covid-19 cases,” an official said, and added authorities have been asked to strictly monitor the impact of the next phase of the lockdown. “Shops and private offices may be opened on a rotational basis. Rules for rickshaws, taxis, city buses and other transport would be decided soon. Also, multiplexes, malls, gyms, and clubs will remain closed...”
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said he will urge the Centre to allow all activities and take measures to restart the hospitality industry.
An official said the decision on reopening hotels and restaurants would be taken after the Centre’s guidelines on the next lockdown.
Jharkhand finance minister Rameshwar Oraon said liquor shops will remain closed even though the state is considering reopening more shops and public transport with some restrictions.
The state did not implement the relaxations allowed during the ongoing third phase of the lockdown because of a spurt in Covid-19 cases due to the return of the migrant workers.
Officials in Himachal Pradesh said bus services will resume from May 18 between district headquarters even as the lockdown restrictions will continue till May end. “This has been done keeping in mind the difficulties faced by the people in commuting,” said principal secretary (revenue) Onkar Chand Sharma.