States Seek Lockdown Extension, Gradual Resumption In Economic Activity
Migrant workers and their families sit in the back of a truck traveling along National Highway 24 during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus on the outskirts of Delhi, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)  

States Seek Lockdown Extension, Gradual Resumption In Economic Activity

In their meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, some chief ministers sought an extension in the nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, while gradually resuming economic activity.

They were unanimous that with the increase in number of Covid-19 cases, a cautious approach should be followed, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasami told reporters after the meeting. Most of his counterparts from states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party wanted the lockdown to continue and slowly resume the economic activity, he said.

Nine chief ministers spoke with Modi in today’s interaction, Narayanasami said while the rest of the CMs who attended the meeting were asked to write their suggestions to the prime minister.

Narayanasami said CMs who spoke included his counterparts from Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana and Odisha. The BJP runs Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Gujarat, while the party shares the power along with allies in Haryana, Bihar and Meghalaya.

Odisha Health Minister Naba Das, who attended the video conference along with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, told ANI later that he demanded that the lockdown should continue for one more month.

Narayanasami, however, said he called for gradually lifting the lockdown as states are losing revenue. Economic activity needs to start with certain restrictions so that people also get employed, he said, adding that the central government must release pending GST compensation to states immediately.

PM Modi, who so far stressed on saving lives and prevention, in a statement after the meeting also said importance needs to be given to the economy as well.

Narayanasami said the central government should grant Rs 1 lakh crore to all states in proportion of their population. He also sought a waiver in interest on ‘Ways and Means Advances’—temporary loan facilities provided to states to bridge the mismatch between revenue and expenditure.

Other Suggestions

  • Announce a stimulus package for MSMEs, and compensate them for employee salaries for six months.
  • Increase state’s borrowing limit to 5 percent of state GDP from the current 3 percent.
  • Formulate a policy or framework to bring back students and Indians abroad, and help the migrant workers return to their homes.

Also Read: India Considers Proposal to Guarantee $39 Billion of Small-Business Loans

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in a statement after the meeting, also said students from the state studying in Kota and elsewhere should get help to return to their homes. The state has received about one lakh distressed calls from people stuck in different parts of the country, and the central government should come up with a framework or guidance to help them, Kumar said.

Also Read: Financing The Covid-19 Response: Challenges And Choices

He also informed the prime ,inister that the state has given Rs 1,000 each to about 15 lakh migrant workers and poor. Kumar, however, said the central government will have to take a call on the duration of the lockdown in consultation with experts and the state will follow that.

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