Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun discussing with all chief ministers the strategy ahead for the lockdown ending 3 May. The meeting with the chief ministers of the states is going on via video conferencing. The roadmap for the coming weeks is obviously the topic of this meeting the prime minister has convened, sources said.
So far, Prime Minister Modi has held meetings with the chief ministers three times. While nearly all states wanted the lockdown to continue when it was about to end on 14 April, now both economic and communal problems have begun to surface, the second of which politicians are too squeamish to admit.
The date for the end of the lockdown imposed across the country to combat the coronavirus infection is nearing, but the expectation that the chain of infection would break due to the lockdown has not been met.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is, therefore, expected to discuss with the chief ministers, in the meeting that began at 10 AM, the emergent situation in the country — especially the extent to which citizens are observing the lockdown and respecting the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
3 issues between PM and chief ministers
According to sources, Prime Minister Modi is discussing three main points with the chief ministers in the meeting.
- The status of coronavirus infection in states and union territories
- Steps taken to prevent the emergence of new zones that must be contained
- The home ministry guidelines issued on 20 April and the roadmap ahead of 3 May based on the compliance record of citizens
The chief ministers, sharing with the prime minister the efforts they made in their respective states, are suggesting ways to meet the challenges even as the political heads of many states have indicated they want the lockdown to continue for another two weeks.
Telangana has announced an extended lockdown till 7 May. The chief ministers of BJP-ruled states have left the decision to the prime minister.
The Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh has indicated that as long as there is some infection in any district, it will be challenging to open the lockdown.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that the lockdown should not be lifted — in view of the current situation. He proposed a phased withdrawal. He wants the central government to give state governments the right to decide how long and in which was the lockdown should continue.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal does not want to start business activities in the capital before 3 May. He has said that till that day, the lockdown announced for the entire country by the prime minister will be respected in Delhi and the policy thereafter will depend on how the people conduct themselves in this duration. “It will be a decision of the central government; the Delhi government will decide the direction,” he said.
Haryana’s Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala had said conditions could worsen if the lockdown is lifted fully. The nationwide lockdown must be withdrawn slowly and in a phased manner, he said.
The Madhya Pradesh government has left the decision to the central government.
Prime Minister Modi will make the final decision like last time, depending on the situation of the country around 2 May, said a source in the PMO.
Challenges: State autonomy, migrant labourers, fall in GST collection, communal defiance of lockdown
Cases of COVID are increasing rapidly in Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Many big cities of the country are in the grip of the virus. Lifting the lockdown at this stage may prove foolhardy. However, states that are better off wouldn’t like their economies to remain in a state of limbo.
Given that chief ministers like Gehlot have raised the demand for independence from the Centre in the decision-making process, the states are expected to get the responsibility of officially ending, partially lifting or extending the lockdown.
The application of the nationwide lockdown on air service and rail service is the prerogative of the union government.
The MHA guidelines say, in fact, that the way to open residential shops last Saturday onwards would be decided by the respective state governments. This is an indication that the centre will henceforth formally delegate the responsibility to the states to make decisions on the direction the lockdown will take.
However, this does not mean that the Centre will abdicate its responsibility, said the source. Where necessary, decisions will be made and instructions given. Coordination between the central government and states will decide the efficacy and functioning of the state mechanism, he said.
The states affected by inward or outward movement of migrant labourers stranded due to the lockdown have demanded of the Centre special trains to facilitate the movement. The chief ministers of Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have suggestions that do not quite match. As of now, a pair of states in which one faces emigration and the other immigration are discussing transportation of migrants with mutual coordination.
Sources say aircraft, rail or bus service will not be allowed to resume operations as of now. Apart from this, the government will not make the decision yet to start any kind of service and relaxation in the buffer zone of hotspots and contained zones.
In the meeting with the prime minister, chief ministers of states not ruled by the BJP are learnt to have demanded economic packages. The chief ministers of INC-ruled states have told the prime minister their economies have collapsed due to the stalling of GST collection.
On being questioned, no source said the collective Muslim defiance of the lockdown is being discussed. However, no chief minister has objected to the stringent application of the Indian Penal Code, the National Security Act or the Disaster Management Act in tackling the violations — even as the name of no community has so far been mentioned in the meeting.