Ministers, officials return to offices; Govt becomes ‘fully operational’
New Delhi: A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make an announcement on the lockdown, Union ministers and senior officials resumed working from offices on Monday as the government scaled up its activities to deal with the situation arising out of the coronavirus crisis.
The ministries became fully operational while following standard operating procedures (SoPs) for maintaining social distancing in offices, officials said.
The ministers and officials had been following the government’s work-from-home protocols issued in the wake of the 21-day lockdown imposed from March 25 to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The ministers on Monday took stock of the situation of the sectors under their ministries and were preparing business continuity plan to minimize the economic impact of the lockdown.
“I was working most of the time from home during the lockdown. Today I returned to my office at Shastri Bhavan after a week. It feels good to be back. The Modi government is in full action on all fronts now,” Coal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju, Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel were some of the early office-goers on Monday, along with senior officials.
Officers of the level of joint secretary also returned to offices on Monday, as they are entitled to official transport.
The staff belonging to class 2, 3 and 4 are working on a rotational basis and one-third of them are expected to be present in the ministries.
Modi will address the nation at 10 am on Tuesday, the last day of the 21-day nationwide lockdown, amid indications that the shutdown could be extended by another two weeks with certain relaxations to boost economic activities.
“While an official announcement on lockdown extension is awaited, the Union government has become fully operational,” an official said.
Besides tackling COVID-19 pandemic, steps to prepare for post lockdown period and handling its economic impact top the agenda of the government, officials said.
Even during the lockdown, ministries such as Health, its officials and minister Harsh Vardhan were working more than the regular days to tackle COVID-19 situation, they said.
Similarly, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmal Sitharman, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar were regularly attending their offices and holding meetings during the lockdown.