New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a four-hour meet with at least 13 chief ministers on video conference Saturday, has indicated that the lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic would be extended by two weeks after considering the requests of the chief ministers, who preferred a longer containment period.
The lockdown was scheduled to end on Tuesday. PM Modi also marked a shift in tackling the pandemic, from saving lives to saving both lives and the economy. Three weeks ago, while announcing the lockdown, PM Modi had said, "Jaan hai toh jahaan hai (the world exists if life exists)."
Towards the end of the meeting today, however, he stressed on "Jaan bhi jahaan bhi (both life and economy are important)" as the lockdown has put severe stress on businesses. Sources say, after the prime minister's "jaan bhi jahaan bhi" comment, the council of ministers has been asked to resume work in ministries from Monday.
Most chief ministers who attended the video conference pointed out that they may not have the massive resources needed to deal with a spurt in COVID-19 cases if the lockdown is removed sooner. The chief ministers asked the centre for relief packages.
At the end of the four-hour meet today, PM Modi said he will allow industries and construction work to reopen in a graded manner. Other restrictions are also likely to be eased in a graded manner and another economic package for farmers is expected.
PM Modi indicated that farmers would be allowed to sell to consumers directly from their fields if wholesale vegetable markets or mandis are shut down. For example, the mandis in Mumbai and Pune are closed. This direct selling will be needed to feed a nation of 1.3 billion and prevent inflationary trends, sources said.
The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act that governs how mandis function will be amended to enable farmers to skip the supply chain and reach consumers directly, sources said.
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