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Agriculture, construction and manufacturing units get relief under new norms for lockdown 2




Representational image of farming in India
Representational image of farming in India | Commons

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New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Tuesday morning issued a fresh set of guidelines for phase 2 of the nationwide lockdown, which will remain in place until 3 May.

According to the new guidelines, hospitals and sectors engaged in essential services, the agricultural sector, fisheries, manufacturing units, construction agencies and banks will be allowed to function but with social distancing and with only 50 per cent of the staff.

“These operations have been allowed but with strict compliance,” a government official said.

“Before allowing these select additional activities, states, UTs and the district administrations should ensure that all preparatory arrangements, with regard to standard operating procedures for social distancing, are in place at offices, workplaces, factories and establishments,” he added.

The MHA guidelines also state that public spaces such as cinema halls, malls, entertainment parks, bars, assembly halls and all religious places will remain shut while private cab aggregators and auto drivers will not be allowed to ply.

Air and rail travel is still prohibited for the general public. But movement (inter and intra state, including by air) of all medical, veterinary personnel, scientists, nurses, paramedical staff, lab technicians, midwives and other hospital staff, including ambulances, has now been permitted.

The guidelines also mention that there will be a strict ban on the sale of liquor, gutka and tobacco while spitting on roads and open spaces will be punishable by a fine.

ThePrint breaks down the new guidelines.

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The new guidelines should come as a relief to the farm sector as all agricultural and horticultural-related activities will now remain functional.

This includes work in the fields by farmers and workers, agencies engaged in procurement of agricultural products, including MSP operations, mandis operated by the agriculture produce market committees and the like.

Shops of agriculture machinery, its spare parts and repair shops, custom hiring centres related to farm machinery are also to remain functional.

Moreover, manufacturing, distribution and retail of fertilisers, pesticides and seeds have been permitted.

“Movement of harvesting, inter and intra state sowing related machines will also be allowed,” the government official said.

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Supply of essential goods without any time restrictions

According to the guidelines, manufacturing, wholesale, retail and e-commerce activities will be allowed without any time restrictions.

“Vegetables, poultry, milk sale will be allowed without any time restriction but home-delivery of these items will be encouraged to ensure minimum movement of people,” a second officer said.

Moreover, movement of cargo with all goods will be allowed, particularly in the railways, where parcel trains will function.

“Air transport for cargo movement, relief and evacuation will remain functional. All truck and other goods carrier vehicles will also remain operational. Shops for truck repairs, dhabas on highways will also work but with strict rules,” the second officer said.

“Movement of staff and contractual labour for operations of railways, airports, air carriers, seaports, ship vessels will be allowed on passes issued by local authorities,” he added.

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Fresh fish and shrimps will now be available

With fisheries seeing relaxations under the new guidelines, fresh fish and shrimps will now be available in the market.

“Operations of the fishing aquaculture industry, including feeding and maintenance of harvesting, processing, packaging, cold chain, sale and marketing, has been permitted,” the first government official said.

“Movement of fish, shrimp, fish products, fish seed and weed and workers for all these activities have also been allowed,” he added.

Coffee, tea plantations to resume

The government has also given a green signal for coffee, tea and rubber plantations to function but with a maximum of 50 per cent of the workers.

“Operations of tea, coffee and rubber plantations with maximum 50 per cent workers have been allowed,” the second government official said.

“Processing, packaging, sale and marketing of tea, rubber, cashew with max 50 per cent workers will also be allowed,” he added.

Besides, collection, distribution, sale of milk and milk products by milk processing plants including transport and supply chain will also be allowed.

Animal feed manufacturing, operation of animal shelter homes, including gaushalas, has also been permitted.

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Health services

All health services, including those of Ayush, will remain functional.

This will include hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, tele-medicine facilities, dispensaries, chemists, pharmacies, medicine shops including the state-owned jan aushadhi kendras.

Medical labs and collection centres, medical research labs, research labs on Covid-19, veterinary hospitals, dispensaries, home care providers, diagnostic supply chain firms serving hospitals, will also remain functional.

Moreover, construction units of medical and health infrastructure including manufacture of ambulances, manufacturing units of drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, medical oxygen, their packaging material, raw material and intermediates, will also be functional.

Financial sector

According to the new guidelines, RBI and RBI-related financial markets and entities such as the NPCL, CCIL, payments operators and standalone primary dealers will be allowed to operate.

Bank branches, ATMs and IT vendors for banking operations will also be functional.

“Bank branches will be allowed to work as per normal working hours until the disbursal of DBT cash transfers is complete,” the first government official said.

“Capital and debt market services as notified by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), IRDAI and insurance companies also permitted,” the guidelines state.

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Juvenile, senior citizen, women homes to open

Operation of homes for children, mentally challenged, senior citizens, women and widows will also be functional.

This will also include observation homes, after care homes and places of safety for juveniles.

“Disbursement of social security pension, operation of anganwadis will also resume. Also, distribution of food items once in 15 days at the doorsteps of the beneficiaries who are not coming to anganwadis will be done,” the first official said.

Online teaching to be encouraged

The new guidelines also stress on online teaching by schools, coaching centres with the help of Doordarshan.

“All educational, training and coaching institutes to maintain the academic schedule through online teaching. May use of DD and other educational channels may be made for teaching,” the guidelines state.

Irrigation schemes to be implemented under MNREGA

The guidelines state that MNREGA work will be allowed with social distancing and masks.

“Priority given under MNREGA to irrigation and water conservation works,” the MHA order states. “Other Central and state sector schemes in irrigation and water conservation sectors may also be allowed to be implemented.”

Oil, gas to be remain available

Under public utility, operations of the oil and gas sector, refining, transportation and distribution, storage and retail will remain functional.

“Generation, transmission and distribution of power at the Central, State and UT levels will be permissible,” the guidelines state.

Operation of utilities in water, sanitation and waste management sectors will also reopen.

“Telecommunication and internet services will also be functional,” the guidelines state.

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Commercial sector

In addition to the print and electronic media, DTH service, IT and IT-enabled services will be allowed to operate but with upto 50 per cent of staff.

Data and call centres meant for government activities will only remain functional.

“E-commerce companies, courier services, cold storage and maintenance staff will be allowed to operate,” the second government official said.

All hotels and motels will remain closed barring those housing stranded tourists or acting as quarantine facilities.

Construction of roads, irrigation projects to resume

According to the new guidelines, road, irrigation projects, building and all kinds of industrial projects including MSMEs in rural areas and industrial estates will be permitted.

The guidelines, however, state that no workers can be brought from outside. “Companies should manage with workers staying on sites,” the first officer said.

Industries in rural areas, export-related units will also become functional.

“In this as well, workers who are staying in the premises should be at work. Else, if workers are required to be brought on site then the employer should arrange the transportation after due permissions from authorities,” the official added.

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




doctor with a stethoscope
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.”

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‘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.

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