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Most parties favour lockdown extension

Final decision after PM talks to chief ministers on Saturday

By PTI in New Delhi
  • Published 8.04.20, 6:01 PM
  • Updated 8.04.20, 6:01 PM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
People sit inside marked circles to maintain social distancing, as they wait to collect ration outside a distribution centre during the nationwide lockdown, in wake of coronavirus pandemic, in Patna,Wednesday, April 8, 2020. PTI

The government is likely to extend the ongoing countrywide lockdown beyond April 14 to combat the coronavirus, the Congress indicated on Wednesday after an all-party meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Prime Minister told the meeting that he had received several requests for extension of the lockdown to contain Covid-19, but would take a call on it only after consulting experts and the chief ministers of various states.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to interact with chief ministers of all states on April 1, official sources said on Wednesday.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the Prime Minister said that the situation in the country was akin to a "social emergency" and had, therefore, necessitated tough decisions.

Modi asserted that the priority of his government was to "save each and every life".

Interacting with floor leaders of the Oopposition and other parties in Parliament via video conferencing, the Prime Minister said, "We must continue to remain vigilant."

"The situation in the country is akin to a social emergency...it has necessitated tough decisions and we must continue to remain vigilant," Modi told the leaders, according to an official statement.

Azad said around 80 per cent of leaders who interacted with the Prime Minister favoured extending the lockdown.

He said his party put forth certain suggestions with regard to the crisis in the farming sector.

"The Prime Minister told the all-party meeting that he was happy that political parties had risen above politics and come together in national interest in this hour of crisis," Azad said.

He added that Modi told the meeting that he would try and implement the suggestions put forth by various leaders.

"The Prime Minister said he is receiving requests for extending the lockdown, but he will talk to chief ministers and experts before taking any decision in the best interest of the nation," the Congress leader said.

Azad suggested to Modi to set up a task force comprising Union ministers and chief ministers of various states to recommend the way forward and help people tide over the crisis.

He also suggested setting up a multi-party working group to help the government tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

Azad said the Congress has called for a special financial package for the states most affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury said the party had suggested to the Prime Minister to consider exempting farmers from the 21-day lockdown for harvesting of rabi crops. The party has also demanded that all taxes on fertilisers be withdrawn.

Chowdhury said the Congress suggested that those enrolled under the rural job scheme, MGNREGA, be given priority while carrying out harvesting of the standing crop.

Azad and Chowdhury were the Congress representatives at the meeting of the floor leaders of various parties with the Prime Minister.

Sources in the government said that the Centre was going through the requests from states and experts on extending the lockdown in the run up to Saturday’s meeting.

This will be the second time the Prime Minister will interact with chief ministers via video link after the lockdown was imposed.

During his April 2 interaction with chief ministers, Modi had pitched for a "staggered" exit from the ongoing lockdown.

The death toll due to the novel coronavirus rose to 149 and the number of cases climbed to 5,194 in the country on Wednesday, according to the Union health ministry.