T'PURAM: Kerala has suggested lifting COVID-19 lockdown in a phased manner. The state assessed that the time was not right to return to normalcy and wanted restrictions at hotspot districts to continue till April 30. Permission for state-sanctioned activities, regular reviews and social distancing at non-hotspot districts are among other key proposals put forth by the state.
Briefing the media on the suggestions by Kerala during his video conference with the Prime Minister on Saturday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state wanted the Centre to come up with a special package, in addition to raising the borrowing limit. Kerala also sought to take up issues faced by expatriates and urged the Union Government to help expats stranded abroad.
"The state will follow all restrictions imposed by the Centre. The coming 3-4 weeks are crucial for coronavirus prevention. We suggested a phased lifting of restrictions, after assessing each phase and region. The increased movement will affect preventive measures currently in place and could thereby lead to community transmission. Considering the state's population density, the same could turn into a very serious scenario overnight."
Meanwhile, it's learnt that the state plans to bring in more relaxations in certain key sectors including agriculture and construction. Once the Centre takes the final call, the state might announce the measures.
A few pointers:
* About 3.85 lakh migrant workers in Kerala want to return to their native states. A special non-stop train should be run for them after April 14. Also since their livelihood is affected, financial assistance should be given for three months through Direct Bank Transfer.
* Non-Resident Indians should be attended to. Expatriates have made major contributions to the state's growth. In the wake of the pandemic, many of them are at the receiving end abroad. Embassies should be directed to extend all support to them.
* Special attention should be given to labour camps. Embassies should be directed to coordinate with respective governments and Community Advisory Committees to ensure the welfare of expats. Embassies should bring out regular bulletins on the disease and the expat scenario at frequent intervals, so as to prevent the spread of wrong information. Helpdesks should be set up and allowances given to stranded expatriates.
* Special aircraft to bring back those who went abroad on visiting visa and for short term purposes. Many such people are stranded abroad. They should be brought back, as per WHO guidelines.
* Special attention should be given to those working in the unorganised sector. A comprehensive scheme to ensure financial assistance to them for three months. It will also help boost the economy.
* Public Distribution System should be extended across the country. The Union Government should ensure buffer stock of food grains. The state needs 6.45 lakh tonnes of rice and 54000 tonnes of wheat for the next three months. The Railways should operate special goods trains to bring food grains and fruits from production centres to the market. It will ensure that consumers get food supply and a market for producers.
* The ESI ceiling should be increased from Rs 15,000 to 20,000. Also, COVID should be brought under the ESI conditions.