Consensus among states on extension of lockdown, says Modi
New Delhi April 11 (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the next 3-4 weeks are critical to determine impact of steps taken till now to curb the coronavirus spread and urged state governments to ensure strict adherence to the lockdown.
Interacting with chief ministers via video conference, the prime minister also said there seems to be a consensus amongst states on extending by another two weeks the ongoing nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25 and was to end on April 14.
Amid reports of shortfall of protective gear for doctors and para medics, he said measures are being taken to ensure availability of personal protective equipment and critical items for all front-line workers in Covid-19 fight, an official statement said.
During the interaction, the chief ministers sought financial, fiscal assistance from the Centre to boost resources in fight against the pandemic, the statement said.
CMs seek financial package
Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy on Saturday said the chief ministers of various states sought a financial package from the Centre as they were facing a fund crunch in the absence of any economic activity due to the ongoing lockdown.
He said the chief ministers, during a video-conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also called for an extension of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The prime minister agreed, saying the country should exercise caution as regards lifting the lockdown while adding that going by the current situation, continuation of the restrictions is a must, the Congress leader said.
He added that the chief ministers pointed towards the slowdown in the economy and told the prime minister that as the states are not generating any revenue due to the lockdown, they are not equipped to handle the situation.
They urged the Centre for financial assistance, Narayanasamy said, adding that most of the chief ministers also raised the issue of migrant labourers and poor people losing their livelihood, and sought steps from the Union government to help them.
“The states are facing a fund crunch and the chief ministers urged the prime minister for a package for all the states and moratorium on debts, but the latter did not say anything on this in his reply,” Narayanasamy told a press conference through a video link.
He said the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal requested Modi for compensating the states in the form of a package as industrial units were shut and there was no money with the state governments to manage their day-to-day affairs.
The Puducherry chief minister also said his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee raised the issue of governors and lieutenant governors (LGs) interfering with the functioning of the state governments and urged the prime minister to “control them”.
“The West Bengal chief minister specifically said that during this period of crisis, governors and LGs are playing politics and trying to interfere in the administration and functioning of the states. She told the prime minister to control the governors and LGs, who should not interfere in the day-to-day functioning of the state governments,” he said, adding that Modi did not say anything on this either in his reply.
The chief ministers sought a package for migrant labourers as well as for those working in the farm and construction sectors, Narayanasamy said.
They also urged the Centre for relaxations in the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) norms from the current three per cent to five per cent, he added.
FRBM deals with the fiscal prudence to be maintained in accordance with the FRBM Act.
In his response to the chief ministers, the prime minister said agricultural activity should continue, Narayanasamy said, adding that he suggested that farm produce be picked up from the fields instead of it being brought to the “mandi” (wholesale market).
Modi also said guidelines would be issued by the Centre for the construction industry to restart in a graded manner, the Congress leader said.
He added that the prime minister said the government proposes to segregate the construction industry into “Green”, “Orange” and “Red” zones and will tell the states on how activity can be restarted in this sector in a graded manner.
Asked if Modi gave any assurance to the chief ministers on their demands, Narayanasamy said, “You know our prime minister. Even in Parliament, he does not reply to the MPs and similarly, he did not reply to the chief ministers either.”
He said Puducherry has been far more successful compared to other states and Union territories in containing the spread of coronavirus as there are only seven positive cases in the UT.
The Congress leader said he had sought a package of INR 300 crore from the Centre for Puducherry.