A national lockdown has been announced across the country by Prime Minister Modi starting at midnight. The lockdown will last 21 days. The Prime Minister also emphasized on the need for social distancing and warned people that if the lockdown isn’t taken seriously, then utter devastation awaited the country.
It is important to remember that most of the country was already under lockdown. States and Union Territories like Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kerala, Chandigarh, Goa, J&K, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Haryana, Tripura, Karnataka, Assam and Gujarat had already imposed complete lockdown within their territories. Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha had imposed partial lockdowns. Maharashtra, Punjab and Puducherry had imposed curfews in their respective territories. After tonight, the entire country will be under lockdown.
The only thing that has changed after Prime Minister Modi’s announcement is that the lockdown has been imposed nationwide and the decision has not been left to the states. Furthermore, the time of the lockdown has also been set by the central government and is not left to the discretion of state governments. The Home Ministry has also issued guidelines for the three-week lockdown.
Offices of the Central Government and State Governments/Union Territories of India, its autonomous/subordinate offices and public corporations will be closed with the exception of the armed forces, the police forces, disaster management, power generation and transmission units, post offices etc. Hospital and related medical establishments, including manufacturing and distribution units, both in public and private sectors will remain open. The transportation of medical personnel, nurses, paramedical staff etc. will also remain unaffected. Commercial and private establishments will also remain closed with the exception of those in essential services such as groceries, banks, media and e-commerce.
Immediately after the speech of the Prime Minister who had repeatedly asked people to not venture out of their homes, lots of people were asking on social media how will they get their essential items. This had even caused panic buying in many parts of the country. The detailed guideline issued by the Home Minister mentions that shops selling food items, grocery, vegetable, fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy booths, meat and fish, animal fodder will remain during the lockout period. The govt also says that the district authorities should encourage and facilitate home deliveries so that people don’t have to come out to buy essential items.
Industrial establishments will also remain closed with the exception of manufacturing units of essential commodities and production units, which require continuous process, after receiving permission from adequate authorities. All transport services will remain suspended with the exception of essential services and fire, law and order and emergency services. All education, research, coaching institutes etc. will remain closed. All places of worship will be closed to the public and religious congregation will not be permitted. All social gatherings have been suspended and in case of funerals, a gathering of not more than 20 will be permitted.
Incident Commanders will be deployed by the District Magistrates to ensure the implementation of the containment measures. These restrictions strictly apply to the movement of people and not to the transport of essential goods. The Incident Commanders have also been tasked with ensuring that all efforts towards ensuring the mobilization of resources, workers, and material for augmentation and expansion of hospital infrastructure shall continue without any hindrance. People violating the orders could face legal action under sections 51-60 of the Disaster Management Act, apart from section 188 of the IPC.
Some additional measures are also expected to be taken to ensure that daily wage earners do not suffer due to the lockdown. For example, Rajasthan announced that more than 1 crore families covered in the National Food Security Act will get wheat for two months free of cost. Furthermore, food packets will also be distributed free of cost to the street vendors, daily wage earners, poor people and needy families in the urban areas.
“No worker will be laid off from any factory during the lockdown. Labourers will be entitled to leaves with wages,” Home Secretary of Rajasthan Rajeev Swarup said. Swarup heads the core group set up by Chief Minister Gehlot to deal with the situations arising due to the lockdown. Apart from this, 3.65 million Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, state BPL and Antodaya beneficiaries and 2.5 million construction workers and registered street vendors, who are not covered under the pension scheme, will receive Rs 1000 as one-time relief.
The Yogi Adityanath Government in Uttar Pradesh had also announced that it will transfer Rs. 1000 into the bank accounts of needy sections of society in order to compensate them and help meet their needs. The Chief Minister also announced that 1.65 crore needy people will be provided with free ration for one month. Moreover, the families which are not getting benefits under any government scheme will be provided an assistance of Rs 1000 per month by the state government.
In the wake of the nationwide lockdown, such measures could be implemented across the nation to ensure that the poorer sections of society do not suffer inordinately due to the crisis. Needless to say, the daily wage earners and the poor section of society will be disproportionately affected by the lockdown and necessary measures are expected to be implemented in order to ensure that they do not suffer.