Coronavirus: Agricultural activities, highway dhabas may be exempted from extended lockdown
Agriculture, fishing activities, and the pharma industry are likely to get relaxation during the extended period of lockdown, while curbs in 370 districts out of around 720 will continue with total halt on inter-district movement of people, officials said on Tuesday.
Highway dhabas (eateries), truck-repairing shops, and construction works with local labourers are also expected to be allowed to function in districts where there has been no case of COVID-19.
Prime Minster Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced the extension of the lockdown, imposed initially for 21 days from March 25 to check the spread of coronavirus, till May 3. The likely exemptions will come into effect from April 20, in a phased manner.
Union Home Ministry officials are busy framing the guidelines, which will carry broad parameters for the implementation of the extended lockdown and exemptions to be given during the period.
Harvesting and sowing activities will be allowed with strict social distancing norms, a home ministry official said.
Pharma industries, fishing activities, highway dhabas, truck-repairing shops will also be allowed during the lockdown, the official added.
While a number of states, including Assam and Meghalaya, have already allowed opening of liquor shops, the guidelines are likely to allow state governments to frame their own excise policy.
During the chief ministers' conference, convened by the Prime Minister on April 11, several chief ministers had strongly pitched for opening of liquor shops as they is a key revenue-generating source.
During 2019-20, Assam has reportedly received about Rs 2,000 crore revenue from the excise while Delhi's annual revenue was about Rs 3,000 crore.
While smooth functioning of the pharma industry is essential for regular supply of medicines, agricultural and fishing will be allowed keeping in mind the interests of the farmers.
Dhabas and truck-repairing shops are essential for the thousands of people engaged in transportation of both essential and non-essential cargos across the length and breadth of the country.
Officials said of the around 720 districts in the country, around 370 are currently affected by coronavirus pandemic.
Red, orange, and green zones
The whole country is likely to be divided into three zones -- red, orange and green -- depending on the number of COVID-19 cases.
Red zones will be the districts where sizeable number of cases were detected or areas that were declared hotspots, orange zones will be districts where only a few cases were found in the past with no increase in the number of positive cases, and green zone will the districts with no COVID-19 case.
There will be no inter-district movement of people till May 3 and agricultural wholesale markets (mandi) will be allowed to function with limited number of buyers and sellers under strict monitoring of police, another official said.
There will also be relaxation in transportation of agricultural and MSME labourers, who will be allowed to kept in safe houses with proper maintenance of social distance.
The home ministry is preparing the guidelines on the basis of suggestions given by chief ministers, central ministries and departments following their experience during the 21-day lockdown period as well as the COVID-19 situation, the official said.
Districts identified as coronavirus hotspots will be isolated and most of the exemptions given to green zones will not be applicable there.
The district magistrates are expected to implement the containment measures and legal action will be taken against violators, the official said.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)