Press Trust of india

States, UTs can take stricter action but can’t dilute Centre’s lockdown guidelines: MHA

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New Delhi:  States and union territories (UTs) can take stricter action than what is mentioned in the guidelines issued by the central government to enforce the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but cannot dilute or weaken them, the Union home ministry said on Monday.

Joint secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Punya Salila Srivastava, said home secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote fresh communication to the states as some of them were issuing certain guidelines that amounted to “diluting” the lockdown leading to “severe repercussions to health” of the citizens.

“MHA is regularly monitoring the lockdown situation in the country. Wherever lockdown is being violated we (MHA) are taking adequate action in coordination with state governments,” she said while briefing reporters about the updates on lockdown measures being implemented across the country.

“Yesterday, MHA again wrote letter to states and UTs that guidelines issued by it under the disaster management Act are to be followed strictly,” she said.

“They (states and UTs) can undertake stricter steps as per their local conditions but not dilute or weaken them,” she added.

Writing this letter became important, she said, as in some states facilities were being allowed which were not permitted under the MHA guidelines.

The ministry also wrote to the Kerala government about the directives issued by the state and expressed its concerns over it, she said.

The ministry, through a letter written by Bhalla to Kerala chief secretary Tom Jose, came down heavily on the state government for its decision to allow opening of restaurants, bus travel in cities and opening of MSME industries in urban areas, saying it amounts to dilution of lockdown guidelines and also a Supreme Court observation.

Srivastava said that some things, mentioned in the Kerala-issued order, violated MHA guildelines issued under the disaster management Act and was tantamount to “diluting the lockdown.”

They were requested that national guidelines should be followed, she said.

Also, attention was drawn towards the Supreme Court observation of March 31 where it said that all state governments and people should follow the central government’s directives with honesty and dedication and in letter and spirit.

The MHA officer said it was found that some districts in other states were also violating the lockdown and that can have “severe repercussions for health.”

In some districts, she said, the COVID-19 situation is grave or is inching towards that.

Srivastava identified these districts as Jaipur in Rajasthan, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Kolkata, Howrah, North 24 Parganas,  Medinipur East, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Kalimpong in West Bengal.

She said six inter-ministerial teams have been formed by the MHA for visiting the above mentioned four states and they have now reached their respective locations.

These teams are led by an additional secretary-rank officer of the central government and each of them have six members comprising a senior public health specialist and an official from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), she said.

The MHA’s effort is to ensure that all available expertise, as far as possible, should be shared with the states in the interest of the people.

These teams will assess the hotspot areas, health and medical infrastructure management, issues related to disaster management and will “cooperate” with the states.

They will give a report on the lockdown rules and supply of essential goods, social distancing norms, health services and security of health workers and also check the status of relief camps being run for poor and labourers in these states.

“The purpose of the inter-ministerial teams is to provide support and assistance to the states in their endeavour to combat COVID-19,” she said.

“The teams have been very carefully constituted so that support can be provided from health, administrative and disaster management aspects and I am sure states will benefit from it,” she added.

We hope that with these steps, we will be successful in the mission against coronavirus, the officer said.

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