Mumbai: The Maharashtra government again held marathon meetings on Monday as it readied the plan for another Covid-19 lockdown. According to officials familiar with the matter, the state government is expected to make an announcement about the lockdown on April 14, after a cabinet meeting, and begin its implementation from the evening of April 15.
State public health minister Rajesh Tope said that the lockdown is inevitable, but the government was tapping the ways to reduce its impact. “We held a couple of meetings with various departments on Monday. The measures for the preparations were discussed in the meetings. We want to make sure that the people from the lower strata are not impacted. Besides the food for this section of the society during the lockdown, the period will also be utilised for the augmentation of the health infrastructure,” he said.
He added that the people will be given ample time to prepare for the lockdown.
Meanwhile, a relief package to help the economically weaker sections during the lockdown is in its final stages, said the officials.
According to the officials from the finance department, the relief package will focus on the population from the lower strata and the people who are largely dependent on daily wages. “Foodgrains including rice and pulses were distributed through PDS during the last lockdown until November last year under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. 2.5 million metric tonne rice was distributed to about 16 million ration card holders. In the absence of the central scheme, the state government will have to launch its own scheme by bearing the cost. Similarly, its ongoing Shiv Bhojan Thali, distributed in ₹5, will have to be extended to a large extent. All these schemes will be part of the package,”the official said.
“The plan has been discussed for the relief package to the labourers, poor people who get affected during the lockdown. It will be finalised after discussing with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray,” said Eknath Shinde, urban development minister after the meeting.
Though the decision over the lockdown has to be taken by the CM, he wants the consensus of all the ruling parties over it by discussing it in the cabinet, said an NCP leader, requesting anonymity.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVP) government in the state comprises the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
On Monday, food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhajbal wrote to the CM, demanding distribution of the grains to the poor through rationing shops. “There is a need to provide essential commodities like pulses, edible oil, sugar and salt free of cost or at concessional rate to the poor during the lockdown. Many elected representatives have demanded this by writing to us. State government should launch Chief Minister Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana to provide the essential commodities and the decision needs to be taken immediately,” he wrote in the letter.
An official from the relief and rehabilitation department said the state government has started preparing Standard Operating Procedures for the lockdown, which are expected to be finalised in a day or two. “There are differences of opinion over the operation of industrial units and the permission to the private vehicles. The decision is expected to be taken by the government after more deliberation with the experts. The state is likely to shut the industrial units barring those into the manufacturing of essential commodities including food items, pharmaceutical commodities and the articles needed for their packing. There would not be any restrictions on public transport including trains, buses and taxi-autos to ensure that the vaccination drive and the ongoing exams are affected. The state government is expected to bring the lockdown into effect from April 15 by announcing it a day or two in advance,” said the official.