Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said it was human nature for people to want to go home, in an apparent reference to migrant workers and others stranded by the lockdown, at a meeting with the chief ministers of all states to discuss the roadmap of India’s Covid-19 response, sources said.
The PM said the government’s effort was to keep the people where they were but "human nature" for them to go out, and the administration now intends to change some decisions regarding the lockdown, implying that lockdown could be eased further post May 17. “Now the challenge is to stop this crisis from reaching the villages,” he told the CMs, sources told News18.
The Centre, after agreeing to run special Shramik trains for migrant workers, has now also resumed passenger train services on select routes from Tuesday, and sources say flight services are also likely to resume after the current lockdown ends on May 17.
The PM said the states have performed their roles well till now, but preventive measures and social distancing cannot be loosened or the crisis may deepen. He also asked the states to come up with suggestions on reviving economic activity and said all the directives will be designed based on these suggestions from states.
Unlike the previous virtual meetings, all participating chief ministers get an opportunity to air their views during the interaction, as some of the CMs had complained that they were not allowed to put forth their views during the last interaction on April 27.
Sources have said that although the government is in favour of easing restrictions after the current lockdown ends on May 17, the curbs still in place are unlikely to be withdrawn in one go. On Sunday, the government decided to resume passenger train services on select routes, while flights are also likely to restart after May 17.
The meeting comes even as India saw the biggest single-day spike in the number of coronavirus cases with 4,213 new infections and 97 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total case count to 67,152 and the death toll to 2,206.
Government officials have said the growth in cases has been linear and not exponential because of the lockdown and have insisted there is still no community transmission, but the worry for the government remains that the restrictions have not managed to flatten the curve, unlike in other countries where lockdowns were imposed.
The meet is likely to discuss efforts to convert 'red' zones with high Covid-19 case load into 'orange' or 'green' zones, while the CMs are likely to raise the issue of financial packages to help tide over the crisis.
At a meeting on Sunday with Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, state chief secretaries told him that "while protection is required from COVID-19, economic activities also need to be stepped up in a calibrated manner", according to an official statement.
With thousands of migrant workers taking special trains to go back to their home states, the restarting of industrial activities will prove to be a challenge for states though several relaxations have been made in labour laws to increase factory output.
The prime minister interacted with the chief ministers last on April 27. Days after the meeting, the central government had extended the lockdown by two more weeks till May 17 to arrest the spread of the virus, but gave several relaxations in economic activities and movement of people.
The nationwide lockdown has been in force since March 25 to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 2200 people, and afflicted more than 67,000 in the country.