BY RAJNISH SINGH
New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) As the nationwide Lockdown4.0 is set to begin from Monday with different specifications, it is expected that movement of auto-rickshaws, opening of shopping malls and starting of domestic flights could be on the cards allowing some amount of normalcy to return after nearly two months as the COVID-19 crisis brought the country to an unprecedented standstill.
Metro, bus services, barber shops, restaurants, local markets and home appliance repairing shops are expected to be allowed with considerable relaxations in the green and orange zones under the new guidelines for the fourth phase of lockdown that may extend for another 14 days.
However, the red zones will have no relaxations in the new guidelines to be announced by Saturday evening or Sunday but there is possibility of some specifications in containment zones as the 54-day lockdown in three phases to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic is due to end on May 17.
After coordinating with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advisor P.K. Mishra and Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with top Ministry officials in this regard on Friday and another meeting began in the Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday, sources said.
As many states have advised to continue the lockdown till May end so far, the Home Ministry, which announces the lockdown measures under National Disaster Management Act (NDMA), has been considering the views received to take a decision.
On request of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, most of the states had shared their views on lockdown extension by Friday so that the Home Ministry could come up with a “totally different” lockdown measures, said a source.
While some states have supported extension of the lockdown, most have asked for easing restrictions as well as more autonomy in deciding demarcation of areas as red, green, orange zones which as of now is determined by the Centre, the source said requesting anonymity.
Maharashtra, which has the highest number of novel coronavirus or Covid-19 cases and deaths from the virus, wants strict lockdown measures to continue in various cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Solapur, Aurangabad and Malegaon till May 31 considering the increasing number of cases.
Despite being the second-highest in COVID-19 cases, Gujarat expressed wish to resume economic activities in major urban centres citing economic activity as an important tool and that now people cannot afford to sit at home fearing the deadly disease.
The Home Ministry has been also considering the suggestions of Delhi government which has proposed opening of markets, shopping complexes and operation of buses and metro services with strict social distancing norms.
The government has also mooted resumption of construction activities in the national capital and that movement of labourers within Delhi be allowed, sources in the government said.
National capital’s neighbouring state Haryana has favoured extension of the lockdown with permission to states to be given liberty to decide what activities should be allowed for a gradual return to normalcy.
Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha have urged the Centre to extend the lockdown till the end of this month besides keeping air and rail traffic, other than Shramik Special trains, suspended during the period in view of the situation that has emerged following the return of migrants to Bihar from across the country on a large scale.
Tamil Nadu,however, expressed opinion to ease curbs to pep up the economy but it is against opening up air and train services till May 31 as the number of coronavirus cases in the state inched towards 10,000, second only to Maharashtra.
The West Bengal government, which has been on loggerheads with the Centre on various points, has decided to support Home Ministry’s decision to extend the lockdown but wants the states to be allowed to decide on relaxations in their respective areas.
The Ministry of Home Affairs is on the job to come up with a guideline in line with the latest announcement of Prime Minister Modi in which he announced that lockdown extension which will be enforced after May 18 will have a fresh ‘avatar’, with completely new rules and norms.
Relieving restrictions is the need of the hour as the economy is passing through its worst phase and there is a need to boost it up and bring back life on track despite COVID-19 exists.
The Prime Minister had announced the lockdown on March 24 to break the chain of COVID-19 which has claimed 2,752 deaths and nearly 86,000 infected people across the country.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)