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Will Decide Whether to Extend COVID-19 Lockdown in Karnataka Based on PM's Decision, Says Yediyurappa

File photo of Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa.

File photo of Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa.

Yediyurappa also plans to review the state budget presented in mid-February, to rejig some programmes and put some others on hold.

Deepa Balakrishnan

Karnataka may look at relaxing the lockdown in most of the districts which remain unaffected by coronavirus disease (COVID-19) soon, and will have to relook at its budget programmes and come out with changes in policy to soon start a revival of the economy, chief minister BS Yediyurappa says. Speaking to News18.com, he said now that the state has been able to contain the spread of COVID-19 reasonably well, he will "101 per cent" look at how to revive the industry while talking to experts. He also plans to review the state budget presented in mid-February, to rejig some programmes and put some others on hold.

Q: How has the lockdown implementation been so far? Do you feel it has been successful in Karnataka?

A: As you know, so far, the situation on the corona front in Karnataka has not gone out of control. The situation turned worrisome when Nanjangud factory workers and Tablighi Jamaat volunteers tested positive. Now we have quarantined all factory workers— they are more than 1,000 in number— and all the Jamaat volunteers who attended the Delhi congregation. Now I think things will turn positive on April 14, when the lockdown hopefully ends. It all depends on how people cooperate with us. We requested them not to come out. All essential things are available in their areas. If people cooperate, then after April 15 we will sit and discuss. It all depends on the PM's decision. On the 11th (of April), he will have a discussion with all chief ministers. What suggestions he is going to give, on that basis we will decide. Just today, Dr Devi Shetty and other experts have given a report and we have discussed in detail all their suggestions.

Q: But do you feel it has worked? What's your assessment; have people cooperated?

A: More than 90 per cent are cooperating. That's why this control is there. The remaining people are going around... for that, in Bengaluru alone, we have seized 10,000 vehicles and so many FIRs are lodged. If they cooperate with us, we can move out of this.

Q: Is there an exit policy on how to come out of the lockdown?

A: In border areas, we have strictly given instructions. No one is allowed. We have stopped it. Other things, we are trying our level best to control. I'll tell you something... our preventive steps are yielding results. Earlier we were in the top three states. Now we have come down to ten or eleven (eleventh spot). That's good. In eleven or twelve districts, there is no corona at all. In about four districts there are just one or two cases.

Q: Will inter-state travel be permitted after the 14th, or that will take a few more days?

A: Definitely. We don't know, according to experts more corona incidents will be there (in coming weeks). Anyway on the 11th, we will discus with the PM and then with our experts also.

Already in border areas, they can move for commodities. For that we have given permission. For everything else, it depends on the situation after the 14th. About Bengaluru and other things, we will take a decision later.

Q: Already the state is in a financial crunch. How are you going to improve finances? Will you look at asking for a better share from the Centre?

A: You know the Centre also has a financial crisis. And in the state also, we are facing difficult days. We will discuss with financial experts... We have already presented the (state) budget. But which programmes to be taken up or not, it is yet to be decided.

Q: So you will come out with a policy to revive the economy?

A: 101 per cent. There is no doubt about it. Tomorrow also cabinet is there. We will sit and discuss.

Q: Some states have looked at cutting government employees' salaries. Will Karnataka take the same route?

A: Only MLAs', MLCs' 30 per cent salaries are to be put in state treasury. As for employees, we have not yet taken any decision. It depends on the situation.

Q: There has been a controversy over MPLAD funds, because they are usually used in activities that actually help revive the economy at the constituency level.

A: But the PM has discussed with his Cabinet colleagues, and taken a decision in the interest of the country. Anyway, it will be used for corona activities only. So I don't want to comment on that.

Q: Many have given a religious or communal tint to spread of the virus.

A: I've given clear instructions to (BJP) workers and people: Hindu, Muslim, Christian go together in this crisis. If anyone goes against this, I will speak to them today only and warn them not to speak like this in future.

Q: More have died of alcohol withdrawal than COVID in Karnataka.

A: More than 10-12 people have died because of this. After the 14th, we will think on this.

Q: The capital Bengaluru is notified as a hotspot?

A: Yes, naturally, Bengaluru is the number one place... you know, so many people are there. In such places, we won't allow movement. In other places, we will allow after the 14th.

Q: You talked about warning your party colleagues. But your own MLAs, MPs are not supporting you. We are seeing on social media that even opposition parties are supporting your stand but not your party men.

A: No. One or two persons are the exception... they may have made statements. I will warn and speak to them.

Q: Is this your biggest challenge till now?

A: Definitely. Not only me. The entire world is facing this problem.


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