NEW DELHI: Encouragement to the rural economy is the focus of relaxations given under the consolidated revised guidelines issued by the Home Ministry for the extended lockdown period to contain the spread of coronavirus, a senior official said.
The relaxations to some activities given in the guidelines announced on Wednesday will come into force from April 20 and are only for areas which are not declared COVID-19 hotspots, Additional Secretary in the Home Ministry Govind Mohan said.
Addressing a press conference, he also made it clear that no movement of migrant labourers is possible till the lockdown continues as no public transport is permitted to operate during the period.
The home ministry has provided funds under state disaster relief provisions to extend facilities at relief and shelter camps for labourers and shall continue to extend support, Mohan said.
He said the activities allowed as per the revised guidelines are focussed at providing encouragement to the rural economy.
"Keeping in mind encouragement to rural economy, MNREGA activities have been permitted with conditions of wearing masks and adopting social distancing norms.
Priority of MNREGA works should be water conservation and irrigation works," Mohan said.
He said the ministry kept agriculture-related activities open in previous guidelines also which have been reiterated in the revised guidelines.
"Besides, states and UTs have been asked to decentralise procurement and marketing in agriculture as much as possible so that farmers do not face any problems in procurement and marketing of products," he said.
People involved in animal husbandry, aquaculture and horticulture have been allowed to work, Mohan said, adding that supply chains in animal husbandry and rural industries with focus on food processing have been allowed.
Common Service Centres in rural areas where people can pay their bills and download the Arogya Setu app will now be open, he said.
Addressing a press conference, the official said the relaxations come with two main conditions -- all the directives of the guidelines should be strictly followed and some preliminary action needs to be taken with regard to social distancing in sectors where activities are being permitted.
He said the health ecosystem was fully functional.
Essential goods supply chains, neighbourhood stores, kirana stores can remain open, he said.
All district magistrates have been asked to strictly implement the National Covid Directives issued under the guidelines, like wearing masks, social distancing, prohibition on gathering of over five persons, etc., Mohan said, adding that violations will attract penalty.
"All industrial, commercial and other establishments allowed to function under the guidelines will have a standard operating procedure in conformity with social distancing protocols," Mohan said.
"The lockdown will continue, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind," he said.