Press Trust of india

Set up control room, helpline number to ensure availability of essential goods: Centre to states

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New Delhi, Mar 25 :  The Centre has asked state governments to set up a round the clock control room with a helpline number at its headquarters and in each of its districts to ensure seamless availability of essential commodities during the 21-day lockdown enforced to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The Union Home Ministry’s letter to Chief Secretaries of all states came in the wake of reports that those involved in distribution and delivery of essential commodities and services were facing difficulties due to the restriction of movement of people and police vigilance.

The ministry also said a dedicated helpline number should also be set up to help healthcare workers or others officials who are working in hospitals handling coronavirus cases as some of them are facing harassment by landlords, neighbours or locals.

In its letter, the home ministry said to ensure that these essential provisions are seamlessly available at ground level, it would be necessary for each state and UT to set-up a 24×7 Control Room or office with a helplines (at state/district level) to address any grievance or undue problems faced by the providers of goods and services, including during inter-state movement.

The ministry said a nodal officer at the state may be appointed to coordinate with the district administration and police in this matter.

This is necessary to ensure continuity of supply chain for essential commodities, several of which may be perishable, the letter said.

It may also be necessary to lay down a Standard Operating Protocol for unhindered operation of essential services, establishments and commodities, including appointment of nodal officers at inter-state borders, issue of vehicular passes etc.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown across India in a bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

After the announcement, the home ministry issued guidelines about the services and people exempted from the restrictions.

The guidelines listed several services, including government and private offices that will be out of bounds during the period, while exempting establishments such as hospitals, ration shops, dairies, banks, insurance offices, print and electronic media.

Delivery of all essential goods, including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through e-commerce has also been exempted from the purview of the lockdown, the guidelines said

In the letter to the states, the ministry also advised that the state helpline facilities may be also made available to ensure adequate protection to essential service providers, government or PSU employees and healthcare workers from any unwanted stigmatisation by any local persons on any grounds.

“In view of the above, it is accordingly requested to issue suitable directions to set-up a nodal control room or office with helplines in the state and appoint a nodal officer immediately.

The details of such helpline number may be given wide publicity in the state and UT concerned,” the home ministry said.

There have been reports of several healthcare workers, doctors, aircrew facing harassment by landlords and neighbours who claimed that exposure to such environment can invite the disease and it may transmit to others.

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