Agriculture and allied activities will be exempted from the 21-day nationwide lockdown in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the government said on Saturday. The decision was taken to ensure that farmers do not face difficulties in harvesting and transporting crops and there is an uninterrupted supply of foodgrains, the government said.

The government order exempts farming operations and agencies involved in procuring agriculture produce, including “mandis”. Inter- and intra-state movement of harvesting and sowing-related machines, and manufacturing and packaging units of fertilisers, pesticides and seeds are also exempted.

“This decision has been taken with a view to facilitate unhindered activities related to agriculture and farming so as to ensure essential supplies to the common man,” the government order said. “Necessary directions have been issued to the concerned Ministries/Departments and designated officials of the States and Union Territories.”

The Centre had earlier announced benefits for farmers in a Rs 1.7-lakh-crore coronavirus relief package. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that under the farmers’ welfare scheme PM-KISAN, 8.69 crore farmers would immediately benefit through direct cash transfer of the first Rs-2,000 instalment for the upcoming financial year in the first week of April itself.

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India entered into a three-week lockdown on Wednesday – all public places have been closed and transportation services have been suspended. The government has repeatedly assured citizens that the supply of essential commodities like medicines, food, vegetables and dairy will remain unhindered. Online delivery of food items has also been allowed.

The lockdown, however, raised concerns about how India’s poor population would survive. The exodus of thousands of migrant workers left without work and shelter in big cities has triggered a crisis for the government amid rising number of Covid-19 cases and the threat of community spread of the disease.

There are more than 900 cases of coronavirus in India and 19 people have died, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.