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Modi govt likely to extend lockdown for 2 more weeks, announcement soon

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PM Narendra Modi at the video conference with all chief ministers Saturday | PTI
PM Narendra Modi at the video conference with all chief ministers Saturday | PTI


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New Delhi: Three days before the 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus ends, chief ministers of most states, including opposition ruled ones like West Bengal, Saturday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend the lockdown for two more weeks, government sources have told ThePrint.  

“The central government is considering this request,” the sources said, adding that a final call will be taken by the Centre shortly.  

The central government could, however, allow certain farm activities and construction to continue in a graded manner. “A guideline will be issued by the Centre soon,” the sources said. 

They added that after hearing out the CMs, the Prime Minister was of the view that farm activity should continue. “There are indications that the second phase of the lockdown will be different from the first one, where everything was shut bringing economic activity to a near halt,” the sources said.   

So far, the Covid-19 outbreak has killed 239 people and infected over 7,400 in India. 


Also read: Centre says Mamata govt not enforcing lockdown in some pockets and lists ‘Muslim areas’


A four-hour meeting

The request from the chief ministers to extend the lockdown came at a four-hour marathon meeting that Modi had with them over video conference Saturday to get their feedback on whether to extend the lockdown beyond 14 April. 

Modi spoke to the chief ministers about the exit plan after the lockdown and told them there appeared to be a consensus among the states that there should be an extension for another two weeks.   

“Our mantra earlier was jaan hai to jahaan hai but now it is jaan bhi jahaan bhi,” Modi told the CMs. He added that they could talk to him anytime and give their suggestions. “I am available 24×7… We must stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against Covid-19,” the PM said. 

According to a government statement, the prime minister also emphasised on the criticality of the coming three to four weeks in determining the impact of the steps taken, to contain the virus until now. 

Modi also assured the CMs that India has adequate supplies of essential medicines and said that measures are being taken to ensure availability of protective gear and critical equipment for all front-line workers. 

Sources said that almost all of the CMs raised the issue of migrant labourers and poor people losing their livelihoods during the lockdown. 

Most of the CMs also told Modi that states are facing a fund crunch and urged the Prime Minister to dole out special packages and effect a moratorium on debts.  

“The PM listened to all the issues raised by the CMs,” sources said.  

This was the third such interaction between the Prime Minister and the chief ministers — the earlier ones had been held on 2 April and 20 March.

Soon after the video conference meeting, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the central government was extending the lockdown  even though there has been no formal announcement. 

“PM has taken the correct decision to extend the lockdown,” Kejriwal tweeted. “Today, India’s position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is important to extend it.”  

 What the chief ministers suggested to the PM  

Several chief ministers including Delhi’s Kejriwal want the Prime Minister to extend the lockdown across the country until 30 April.  The national capital has the third highest positive Covid-19 cases after Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.   

“If the states decide the length of the lockdown on their own, then the fight against the coronavirus won’t be effective,” Kejriwal is believed to have told the PM, requesting the latter to ban all public and private transport except those handling essential services.  “Even if the lockdown is eased, all kinds of transport, either rail or road, should not be allowed,” Kejriwal said. 

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray also requested the PM for a complete extension of lockdown until 30 April. Maharashtra has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in India.   “Lockdown should be limited to red zones, while restrictions can be continued in places of public gatherings such as malls, cinema halls, places of worship, mass transports and schools,” Thackeray said.  

Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami requested a special package be announced for the agriculture and horticulture segments. He also urged the PM to ensure that in the second phase of lockdown, there is no shortage of essential supplies or a food crisis in the country. 

Seeking more rapid test kits, PPEs, N95 masks and ventilators, Palaniswamy also stressed on the need for a Rs 9,000 crore grant to launch a comprehensive plan to combat Covid-19 and its aftermath in the state. 


Also read: Modi’s lockdown has worked, but now India needs Sanjivani Booti, not Hanuman’s mountain


Even least affected states favour lockdown

Most chief ministers want the lockdown extended but with more concessions. 

Addressing a media briefing in Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reiterated that the state is on the same page with the PM as far as the two-week extension is concerned. 

“But the lockdown can be relaxed in some places in the state where there are no cases and can be stricter in some other places,” she said, adding that schools in the state will remain closed until 10 June.  

While batting for an extension of the lockdown, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy said that it should be limited to red zones, while restrictions can be continued in places of public gatherings such as malls, cinema halls, places of worship, mass transport and schools.   

He, however, highlighted how his state’s economy has been severely hit by the lockdown. “Inter-state movement of agricultural commodities has come to an abysmal low… If the present situation continues, lakhs of farmer families will be forced into destitution? How much can we absorb this locally? How do we pay wages and salaries when revenues have completely dried up?” he asked PM Modi. 

Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa said that he discussed vital strategies and actions to be taken in the state to control the pandemic. “The PM told us that we must not compromise on lockdown and we are receiving suggestions for extending it for the next 15 days. The PM said in next 1-2 days, the government of India will announce guidelines for the next 15 days,” Yediyurappa said.  

Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, on the other hand, supported the extension of the lockdown. His government has already extended the lockdown until 1 May, with all educational institutions to be closed until 30 June.  

“Though the restrictions are causing a lot of hardship, India cannot afford to take any chances,” sources said he told Modi. “Given the trend in China and several European countries, it is necessary to continue with the lockdown.”  Singh also sought special concessions for industry and agriculture sectors.  

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bagel, while calling for a continued ban on inter-state road, rail and air facilities, urged the PM to allow states to carry out economic activities within state borders. 

(With inputs from Chitleen K Sethi)


Also read: Lockdown may contain Covid-19, but it can’t curb the virus of Islamophobia in India


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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