CMs to make a more strident demand to lift lockdown in Monday meet with PM

PM Modi has been conducting meetings through video conferencing to monitor coronavirus situation in the country. (Source: Narendra Modi/LinkedIn)
The meeting between the prime minister and chief ministers on Monday could turn out to be lot more discordant than the previous two such interactions this month.

Several chief ministers intend to state that the battle against Covid-19 cannot be won if the states continue to face financial constraints. They are also likely to demand that any extension of the lockdown should only be done beyond May 3 in ‘hot zones’ of the virus, while economic activities should commence in ‘green zones’.

The CMs plan to highlight the problems of stranded migrants, and call for the restoration of inter-state transit to enable them to travel to their native places.

The CMs are also set to show evidence of factories and and other economic activities having started in safe zones in their respective states under strict social distancing rules. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot said on Thursday that industrial activities have started in many districts of his state, including Bhilwara, Udaipur, Alwar, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Bharatpur and Kota. Around 40 units in Bhilwara and 50 units in Udaipur have started work in which about 13,000 workers have been employed, he said.

It is expected that at least West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and CMs of Congress-run states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will vociferously call for a lifting of the lockdown.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with chief ministers via videoconferencing to discuss ways to check the spread of coronavirus.

On Thursday, Banerjee said she wants the lockdown to be scaled back, and that the lifting should be done in three stages. She suggested it should be completely lifted within two weeks starting May 4.

At a meeting of the Congress Working Committee on Thursday, party chief Sonia Gandhi said that the government “does not appear to have a clear idea on how the situation will be managed after May 3”.

“A lockdown of the present nature after that date would be even more devastating,” she said.

On Thursday, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh wrote to all chief ministers, asking them to write to the PM about “shrinking revenues” of their respective states as a result of the lockdown and the added pressure of spending on welfare and healthcare.

Singh has called upon the Centre to launch a special three-month Covid-19 revenue grant to states, He also wants the finance commission not only to reassess its recommendations for the current year but also wants its five-year report to begin from April 1, 2021 instead of 2020, in order to factor in the impact of coronavirus. Singh has asked CMs of other states to do the same.

Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, in a letter to union rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar, requested that instead of cash, MNREGA wages to workers could be made in the form of food grains.

MNREGA is a centrally-sponsored scheme. Baghel said the Centre could pay MNREGA money to the state instead of depositing it in the bank accounts of beneficiaries. He said this would save people from queuing up at bank branches, which are fewer in numbers in Chhattisgarh. The CM said his state has good stocks of food grains, and it will in turn pay wages in the form of food grains.

At a meeting of the Congress Working Committee on Thursday, Baghel said, “Unless the Centre was to rise to the occasion and provide financial assistance to the states, how will the fight against Covid-19 be won?” He said 6.25 people in his state survive on MNREGA for livelihood.

Baghel has also demanded that CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds from mining activity be given to state governments instead of diverted to PM-Cares Fund.

Rajasthan's Gehlot said at the CWC, “Unless the Centre comes forward to financially help the States, the fight against Covid-19 will get weakened. Unless there is a big financial package for states, how will normalcy return to States post lockdown.”

At the CWC meeting, former PM Manmohan Singh also stressed the need for cooperation between the Centre and states as the key to success of the fight against Covid-19.

Telangana minister K T Rama Rao, son of CM K Chandrashekar Rao, has said the Centre needed to do more for the states. Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy said at the CWC meeting that the Centre has not given any assistance to his state. “How will the state survive in times of crisis? We are not the enemies but have to act and work together,” he said.

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