Lockdown extension, plan for economy: What to expect from PM Modi's address

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with chief ministers via videoconferencing to discuss ways to check the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation Tuesday morning is widely expected to extend the ongoing nationwide lockdown till the end of the month to control the coronavirus, as he outlines a plan to revive economic activity in a phased manner.

The government is keen to restart economic activity in ‘green zones’, or areas with a low incidence of coronavirus cases. It is considering a blanket approval to all forms of farming activity with proper safety measures in place, and not just specific activities within farming as has been the case, reported by Business Standard on Monday.

Officials say most of these green zones are likely to be in rural areas, as they are less affected by the pandemic compared to the cities. Hence, the top priority is to restart activity in the agriculture sector, with timely harvesting of the late rabi crop being the main concern.

For this, the biggest impediment is labour. The Centre is working with states on how to make agricultural manpower available, and whether limited transportation for such labour force can be allowed.

"While announcing the lockdown, I had said 'jaan hai to jahan hai'... most people in the country understood it and discharged their responsibilities by remaining indoors. And now it is imperative to focus on both aspects, 'Jaan bhi Jahan Bhi (life and wellbeing), for India's bright future, and prosperous and healthy India," Modi told chief ministers in a video meeting two days ago.

PM Modi during his interaction with state chief ministers. (Source: GoUP)

India has adequate supplies of essential medicines and the government is taking measures to ensure protective gear and critical equipment were available for all front-line workers, he said. The next three-to-four weeks are critical for determining the impact of the steps taken to contain the virus, Modi told the chief ministers. There seems to be a consensus on an extension of lockdown by another two weeks, he said, according to the statement

India’s economy, which was already growing at its slowest pace in six years before the onset of the coronavirus, is set to take a severe hit amid the lockdown, say economists, who warn that unemployment could rise to record levels.

The lockdown resulted in many thousands of daily wage labourers losing their jobs in cities and leaving to return to their homes, raising the risk of spreading the coronavirus into the countryside.

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