DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS
16 April, 2020
6 Min Read
Part of: GS-II- Governance (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Wearing face covers and masks is now compulsory in public places and workplaces, spitting in public is a punishable offence and selling liquor, gutka and tobacco is strictly prohibited.
All industries operating in rural areas and the government’s flagship rural jobs scheme will also be allowed to reopen from April 20 if they follow social distancing norms and other safeguards against the COVID-19 infection.
These are some of the directives in a fresh order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to manage the pandemic. The lockdown is scheduled to end on May 3.
Transport and others
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which provides 100 days of minimum wage work to rural households, is also being allowed, so long as social distancing and the use of face masks are strictly enforced. Work provided under the scheme, which is crucial to contain rural distress, has plunged to about 2% of the usual so far in April.
The new guidelines say that priority should be given to irrigation and water conservation works. Other Central and State water schemes can also be implemented using MGNREGA workers.
Transport of goods has been a major hurdle over the last two weeks with the initial guidelines allowing transport of essential goods only. The new guidelines make it clear that all goods traffic will be allowed to ply, with two drivers and one helper allowed a truck. Empty trucks will be allowed to ply after the delivery of goods or to pick up goods. Truck repair shops and dhabas on highways will be allowed to function. E-commerce and courier services can also be restarted.
Health and governance
All health services, including the manufacture of ambulances and operation of utilities providing telecommunication and Internet services, will be allowed.
There will also be a phased return to office of the government's own workforce, with the new guidelines calling for 100% attendance from officers above the Deputy Secretary level, with junior staff attendance of 33%. Certain departments such as defence, police and health will work without any restrictions.
Sectors that have been allowed to function under the new guidelines must first put arrangements in place to follow the SOP before reopening. Executive magistrates in each district will be designated as ‘Incident Commanders’ to monitor compliance and to issue passes for enabling essential movements allowed under the revised guidelines.
While the State governments are not permitted to dilute the restrictions further, they are free to impose stricter measures as needed, say the guidelines.
First set of guidelines
The Centre issued the first set of such guidelines on March 24 under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, invoked for the first time in the country, to streamline the management of the pandemic empowering the district magistrates to take decisions.
Earlier, the MHA had allowed manufacture/production, transport and other related supply-chain activities in respect of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment.
In another letter to the States, Gov emphasised that the guidelines would be withdrawn immediately if any of the lockdown measures were violated, risking the spread of COVID-19, and asserted that restrictions would not be diluted under any circumstances.
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