Centre tells states: Don't dilute lockdown; Kerala receives earful
The nationwide lockdown, intended to slow coronavirus' spread, should not be diluted, the Centre told state governments and union territories on Monday. The Union Government also noted that only those services will be allowed in select areas from today, that were listed in the circular last week. Separately, Kerala was pulled up in another letter for giving relaxations. Here are more details on this.
India's 40-day lockdown will end on May 3
After initially announcing a lockdown for 21 days starting March 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the restrictions till May 3. The decision was taken after meetings with several stakeholders, he said. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released a detailed document explaining what services will be allowed to function from today in areas that are least affected by COVID-19.
Kerala decided to relax curbs, Centre wasn't too happy
While most states are on the same page as Centre on the lockdown, Kerala (from where the first COVID-19 case was reported), decided to ease curbs. This prompted the Centre to shoot a letter to the Pinarayi Vijayan government saying the move violated the guidelines. It also went against the April 15 directive issued under the Disaster Management Act 2005, the Centre reportedly said.
So, what has Kerala allowed?
In non-hotspot areas, househelp services can be availed, the Kerala government said. Non-AC barber-shops were also allowed to open but the state authorities put a cap on cosmetic and beauty therapies. Further, Vijayan's government let dine-in restaurants to function (only till 7 pm) and also said electrical/electronic gadgets shops can work. Book shops also got relaxations. None of these services featured on the Centre's list.
Buses were allowed on short distances
Not only this but the state government allowed two passengers on cars' backseats, pillion riders on two-wheelers, and said buses can ferry on short distances in select towns. Across India, public transport is banned and is only used for essential services workers. Taking offense at Kerala's moves, Ajay Bhalla, Home Secretary to Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose, said this amounts to violation of guidelines.
You can read the letter here
Will need transportation for government officials: Jose
Subsequently, Jose said bus travel hasn't been opened for the general public. "If we have to allow some commercial establishments and government offices to work, as per the Centre's stipulation that 33% of office staff can work, we will need some transport as all of them may not have private vehicles to reach their offices," Jose said, according to Indian Express.
Jose said rules were tweaked according to circumstances
Further, Jose said relaxations on two-wheelers are only meant for family members. "We have made a minor change considering circumstances in which a husband may have to drop a wife off at a place of work," he said. In fact, bus travels aren't permitted for more than 60 km, masks are mandatory, hand sanitizers have to be made available, and standing passengers aren't allowed.
Follow guidelines in letter and spirit: Centre told states
Meanwhile, Bhalla wrote another letter to states asking them to adhere to the lockdown completely and not come up with separate rules. "I would again urge you to ensure compliance of the revised consolidated guidelines, and direct all concerned authorities for their strict implementation in letter and spirit without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown," the letter reportedly read.