Modi calls for ‘balanced strategy’ to fight COVID-19
“Economic activities set to gather steam, need to ensure COVID-free rural India”
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday called for a “balanced strategy” to tackle the COVID-19 crisis as he sought inputs from states on the way forward in fighting the pandemic, while many more tested positive for the deadly virus and pushed the nationwide tally above the 70,000 mark.
The death toll also crossed 2,200 with more people succumbing to COVID-19 at various places including in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
Interacting with chief ministers in a video conference, Modi flagged that problems have increased wherever social distancing norms were not followed or there has been laxity in implementation of the lockdown guidelines. He also said the biggest challenge will be to ensure that the infection does not spread to villages, sources said.
The new cases detected in the past few days include migrant workers who have returned to their native places from big urban clusters, many after being rendered jobless and homeless, as also some airlifted from abroad under a massive evacuation plan undertaken by the government for Indians and expatriates stranded in various countries.
During their interaction with the prime minister, some chief ministers also sought measures to expand the testing infrastructure, while many of them also demanded fiscal support for the states due to the pandemic having hit hard various revenue-generating economic activities.
Sources said Modi told the chief ministers that a “balanced strategy will have to be adopted for the road ahead”, as he sought their suggestions on the way forward.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is said to have favoured allowing all economic activities, barring in the identified containment zones.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Centre wanted a strict lockdown enforcement on one hand, but was resuming train services on the other.
Chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Telangana opposed resumption of passenger train services, which are scheduled to begin on Tuesday with select special trains for taking the stranded migrant workers to their native places.
The Home Ministry said only asymptomatic people with confirmed tickets will be allowed to travel in 15 trains to be operational from Tuesday. Online bookings began for these trains on Monday evening, after some delay due to a technical glitch, and some routes got fully booked within ten minutes.
The Railways have been running ‘migrant special’ trains for ferrying migrant workers since May 1, but this will be the first time in nearly 50 days that the general public can also undertake train journeys even though flight and inter-state bus services remain suspended as of now till May 17, when the third phase of the lockdown is scheduled to end.
The first phase of the nationwide lockdown began on March 25, which was supposed to be of 21 days, but it got extended later till May 3 and then further till May 17 with some relaxations.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked Modi to show “specific and concrete direction” on the ongoing lockdown and said the states would implement the same. He also requested the prime minister to start local trains in Mumbai for essential services staff working in the city.
Mumbai’s coronavirus tally has reached 14,355 with 791 new cases detected on Monday, while its death toll is 528 now with 20 more fatalities. At least 57 new cases were reported from the city’s Dharavi slums.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh favoured extending the lockdown in view of the rising number of cases, but with a carefully crafted exit strategy backed by economic empowerment of states to save lives and secure livelihood.
Some chief ministers also suggested that the states should be allowed to decide declaring red, orange or green zones after taking into account the ground realities.
There are already concerns about re-emergence of the virus in some other countries, including in China, Germany and South Korea, after easing of lockdown restrictions and greater movement of people being allowed.
Since its emergence in China last December, the deadly virus has infected more than 41 lakh people worldwide and over 2.8 lakh have lost their lives. More than 14 lakh people have recovered so far.
Economic activities in India are set to “gather steam”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told chief ministers.
The thrust of the video conference with all state chief ministers was to chalk out a comprehensive roadmap, with a focus on strengthening the COVID-19 containment strategy and stepping up of economic activities in a calibrated manner as the 54-day nationwide lockdown nears an end. India is under a lockdown since March 25 which is scheduled to end on May 17.
During the meeting, which lasted for nearly six hours, Modi and the chief ministers held extensive discussions on various aspects of the situation arising out of the pandemic and the nationwide lockdown, with the prime minister telling them that the future path for the country will be determined on the basis of the suggestions by the states.
According to official sources, Modi told the chief ministers that the biggest challenge for the country will be to ensure that the infection does not spread to rural India following relaxation in lockdown norms which included allowing movement of migrant workers.
At the same time, he emphasised that India will have to devise and implement a “balanced strategy” to deal with the pandemic and step up the economic activities in a gradual manner.
Noting that slowly but surely, economic activities have started in several parts of the country, the prime minister said in the coming days, the process will gather steam.
The interaction comes in the midst of growing demands by states, industries, workers and several political leaders to withdraw the lockdown from non-COVID areas as it has adversely impacted the economy and livelihoods of a large section of people.
In the conference, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami came out against the resumption of flight and passenger train services till May 31, citing increase in the number of coronavirus cases.
During the interaction, Modi also appreciated the role played by the states in the fight against the pandemic, and said the entire world is of the view that India has been able to successfully protect itself from the pandemic, according to official sources.
The “problems” have increased wherever the social distancing norms were not followed or there has been laxity in implementation of the lockdown guidelines, Modi told the chief ministers.
Going forward, the prime minister said, the road ahead should focus on reducing the spread of the infection and ensuring that all precautions are taken by people including social distancing norms by following the mantra of “do gaz doori (six feet apart)’.
He said the Centre now has a reasonably clear indication about the geographical spread of the pandemic including the worst affected areas which is helpful in containing the pandemic.
The interaction was attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan among others.