After a four-hour-long video conferencing meeting with at least 13 chief ministers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated an extension of the coronavirus lockdown by another two weeks. Notably, the chief ministers had requested the PM to extend the lockdown as they preferred a longer containment period.
The lockdown was scheduled to end on Tuesday. PM Modi also marked a shift in tackling the pandemic, from saving lives to saving both lives and the economy.
Three weeks ago, while announcing the lockdown, PM Modi had said, “Jaan hai toh jahaan hai (the world exists if life exists)”. Towards the end of the meeting on Saturday, he stressed on “Jaan bhi jahaan bhi (both life and economy are important)” as the lockdown has put severe stress on businesses.
“PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India’s position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is imp to extend it,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted minutes after the meeting.
Most chief ministers who attended the video conference pointed out that they may not have the massive resources needed to deal with a spurt in COVID-19 cases if the lockdown is removed sooner. The chief ministers asked the Centre for relief packages.
“Extend the lockdown. We’re not short on infrastructure to deal with coronavirus, but the question is of implementing policies effectively. PM Modi has always welcomed the suggestions of states,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
“It is important to extend the nation-wide lockdown. We need a common relief policy for rabi (winter) crop,” Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the lockdown extension should be done in a “humane and practical” manner, adding the economy of her state has suffered due to the lockdown.
PM Modi is likely to give a televised address to the nation again to announce the lockdown extension. At the end of the four-hour meet today, PM Modi said he will allow industries and construction work to reopen in a graded manner. Other restrictions are also likely to be eased in a graded manner and another economic package for farmers is expected.
PM Modi indicated that farmers would be allowed to sell to consumers directly from their fields if wholesale vegetable markets or mandis are shut down.