Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the country at 10 am on Tuesday, the last day of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a tweet.
There has been no official announcement from the government on whether it intends to end or extend the lockdown after Tuesday. However, Modi held a video conference with chief ministers of 13 states on April 11, in which most of the chief ministers appeared to be in favour of extending the lockdown.
Four states – Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal – have already announced an extension of statewide lockdowns until April 30. Punjab has announced an extension until May 1.
The Centre had on April 11, following Modi’s meeting with the chief ministers, said it was considering states’ request to extend the lockdown. While the government maintained that it was “considering” the request, at least four chief ministers – those of Delhi, West Bengal, Karnataka and Puducherry – indicated that Modi had already agreed to it during the meeting. Yediyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka, even claimed that the lockdown in the next two weeks will be different from the one already in place.
The central government is planning to restart some manufacturing sectors from April 15, Reuters reported on Monday quoting unidentified government officials. The report said Modi had directed some ministries to come up with plans to open up some crucial industries as the livelihoods of the poor were being hit.
Meanwhile, the commerce and industries ministry has suggested in a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs that more industrial activities be restarted with safeguards, NDTV reported on Monday. The ministry said manufacturing should be allowed partially in autos, textiles, defence, electronics and other sectors.
“These new activities are essential to improve the economic activity and provide liquidity in the hands of people,” Commerce Secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra wrote in the letter.
The lockdown has hit migrant workers the most, with vast numbers losing their livelihood. When the labourers tried to return home to their villages late last month, the Centre asked the states to seal their borders, fearing a spread of Covid-19.
According to an official statement, Modi said during the meeting with chief ministers that the government’s motto had changed from “jaan hai to jahaan hai [prioritising health over prosperity]” to “jaan bhi jahaan bhi [health along with prosperity]”, perhaps an indication that some sectors of the economy may be reopened under regulations.