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Centre pushes for economic ramp-up after April 20

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New Delhi: The Centre has — through a flurry of meetings involving the Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet secretariat — directly reached out to district administrations, asking them to implement Wednesday’s notification on resuming permissible economic activity to the largest extent possible.

ET has reliably gathered that after Wednesday’s meeting with state chief secretaries, the cabinet secretary — in the presence of top-ranking PMO officials — held video-conference meetings with district magistrates (DM). He told the DMs that they need to be ready with a plan to resume identified economic activity from April 20 while abiding by social distancing norms.

The roads, rural construction and mining sectors have been identified for the purpose of deploying close to 2 million workers currently scattered in different parts of the country, sources said. The labour ministry put out this data at a high-level meeting of secretaries on Friday, where it was decided to focus on construction activities outside urban areas.

In the case of hotspots also, areas outside containment zones are being marked out for resuming economic activities.

Those familiar with the approach told ET that the idea is to not just leave it to the state governments, but monitor implementation from the Centre, which is why direct interface with district administrations was important. The disaster management Act, sources said, could be applicable if the order to resume activities is not respected.

Disaster Act Used During Lockdown

The Act was used by the Centre to coordinate a nationwide lockdown when at first it appeared all states were issuing their own orders. Now, a similar coordination is being attempted for graded resumption of economic activities, officials said. “It’s a dynamic situation, and that’s how we are going about our decisions,” said an official.

The main reason an extra week, until April 20, was kept in hand was to let local administrations develop protocols to ensure work is carried out without violating social distancing norms, insiders said.

“We are giving three key messages down the line. One, lockdown is still on, but some economic activity needs to start. Two, implement the new notification. And three, observe social distancing norms at work sites,” said an official privy to the deliberations.

With key urban locations worst-affected by Covid-19, the government has decided to first focus on reviving the rural economy.

For this purpose, sources said, the rural development ministry has been asked to draw up a road map based on which the next few steps can be taken once economic activity resumes.

On agriculture, the government’s understanding is that harvesting was an issue largely for Punjab and Haryana, which too is under resolution.

The Centre is also working on a plan to financially incentivise states with if they find innovative ways to resume economic activity without compromising on health.


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