Curbs on transport, commerce lifted partially as West Bengal eases lockdown

Earlier, the state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee had said that taxi services would re-start in a phased manner as well
In line with the Central directives, the West Bengal government, on Monday introduced relaxations even as the lockdown was extended till May 17.

Buses have been given permission to ply within the same district in green zones with 20 people aboard, while standalone shops have been permitted in to open from 10am to 6pm in non-containment zones.

Standalone liquor stores have also been permitted to open for business from 12om to  pm. Other shops selling non-essential items, like sweetmeat shops, betel leaf stores and other neighbourhood shops in non-containment areas have also been given permission to operate from 10am to 6pm.

In-situ construction and rural projects have also been given permission to restart while mining operations in green and orange zones have been given a go-ahead signal.

However, the state administration has been more stringent with offices. While the Central guidelines capped employee attendance at 33 per cent, the West Bengal government has capped attendance at 25 per cent and allowed offices to open from 10 am to 6 pm in non-containment zones.

Private cars ferrying employees to office can carry only two passengers besides the driver; and a pass issued by the police is a pre-requisite.

A majority of offices, like ITC, Eveready Industries, Goodricke Group and others have chosen to maintain their work from home schedule.

“Only skeletal staff, who are needed for urgent operations like tea sampling are going to the office after observing all safety protocols. However, the work is only for 1-2 hours. We are encouraging our staff to work from home”, Atul Asthana, managing director and CEO at the Goodricke Group said.

Earlier, the West Bengal government has been stringent to contain Covid-19 and didn’t initially allow tea estates to open for business. After a series of discussions and considerations, plantation business has been allowed to reopen with a manpower rider of 25 per cent against the Central advisory of 50 per cent workforce.

Jute mills, most of which are in red zones, were also not initially permitted to open and was allowed only after union textile minister, Smriti Irani and other states wrote to the West Bengal government to allow manufacturing of gunny bags.

“We have repeatedly told the Centre that the purpose of the lockdown will be diluted the way things are being allowed to open. However, we have provided some relaxations”, the state’s chief secretary, Rajiva Sinha said.

Out of 10096 applications to open factories, the state government, so long has allowed 4340 applications while 5362 proposals have been rejected. Another 394 are under consideration currently.

Earlier, the state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee had said that taxi services would re-start in a phased manner as well. At present, the state government has permitted around 100 taxis to operate in a centralised manner, controlled by the police, to address emergencies.

Malls, shopping complexes, cinema halls, parks and others continue to remain closed.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel