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National Concerns: India under lockdown for 3 weeks

India under lockdown for 3 weeks

Approx Read Time: 6 minutes 
India under lockdown for 3 weeks
India under lockdown for 3 weeks

In News: India under lockdown for 3 weeks

  • As the death toll from COVID-19 rose to 12, PM Narendra Modi has announced a 21-day lockdown for the entire country, stating that it was the only way to break the chain of infection.
  • Around 560 people have already been affected by the viral infection and fears are mounting that more could be hit as the global coronavirus toll moves towards 20,000.

Highlights of the PM’s speech: (India under lockdown for 3 weeks)

  • In a nationwide television broadcast, the PM said the pandemic was a huge challenge to every country and even countries like the U.S. and Italy, considered to have good health infrastructure, were struggling to control the situation.
  • The PM highlighted that globally it took 67 days for the first 100,000 cases to come up, while the next 100,000 came up in just 11 days, and it took only four days for the next 100,000 cases to appear.
  • The experience of other countries that have managed to get some control over the increase in cases shows, that a lockdown for a sustained period of time is the only way to break the chain of infection.
  • The government has allotted ₹15,000 crore for the purchase of personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, setting up testing laboratories and quarantine centres.
  • Highest priority will be given to repairing health facilities and working with WHO and Indian institutions and efforts will be made to ensure that the country has enough ICUs, ventilators, beds, medical and paramedical staff.
  • He acknowledged that the challenge would be particularly hard for the poor and said that alongside the government, civil society organizations should also step up to mitigate some of the hardships.

Directives to implement the lockdown:

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issued an order asking the States to act against any person violating the containment measures as per provisions of Section 51-60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • Further, it will also lead to legal action under Section 188 of the IPC, punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine.
  • Moreover, the States have been asked to send daily reports on the implementation of the strict measures, as lack of uniformity in the measures adopted as well as their implementation may not serve the purpose of containing the spread of the virus.
  • The district magistrates will deploy executive magistrates as “Incident Commanders” in the respective local jurisdictions for the enforcement of the 21-day lockdown.
  • As per the guidelines, offices of the government of India, its autonomous subordinate offices and public corporations shall remain closed.
  • However, the offices of defense, CAPF, treasury, public utilities (including petroleum, CNG, LPG, PNG), disaster management, power generation and transmission units, post, the National Informatics Centre and early warning agencies would be exempted.

Supply of essential goods to be maintained:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked all enforcement authorities to note that the strict restrictions are related to the movement of people, but not to that of essential goods and services.
  • As per MHA, all commercial and private establishments shall be closed, except ration shops (under the PDS), dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder.
  • Further, the delivery of all essential goods, including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through E-commerce would be allowed, to minimize the movement of individuals outside their homes

Current situation of food grain availability:

  • As on March 1, stocks of wheat and rice with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) was around 77.6 million tonnes (mt) — over three-and-a-half times the minimum operational buffer-cum-strategic stock of 21.04 mt required to be maintained for April 1.
  • The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) is holding 2.25 mt of pulses stocks as on March 19 — even as fresh market arrivals of rabi pulses such as chana (chickpea), masur (red lentils) and matar (field pea) have started.
  • The outbreak’s impact will not be on production, given that most rabi crops are close to ripening, if not already harvested.
  • It is only the marketing of the produce at the mandis and reaching it to the consumer that will be impacted. This shows that there will not be a supply, but a supply chain problem — arising from the restrictions on movement.
  • However, for rice, wheat, and pulses with FCI or NAFED, even that should not be a concern — as the grain has to be only moved from godowns and supplied to ration shops.
  • This can, in fact, be an opportunity for the Centre to significantly offload its surplus foodgrain stocks — including to regular grocery shops at open market rates.

Status of milk, sugar, and edible oils:

  • These, items are also not brought to be sold in mandis, as dairies procure milk directly from farmers or through bulk vendors.
  • The sugar that mills produce comes from cane sourced directly from growers and two-thirds of the edible oil consumed by India is imported.
  • In the current lockdown situation, there are actually mitigating factors on the supply requirement front, particularly for these three food items.
  • The most important of them is the demand reduction due to the shutting down of HORECA (hotels, restaurants and catering) businesses.
  • With hardly any business-to-business (B2B) sales happening, the demand for milk products, sugar and edible oil is now only in the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment.
  • The demand reduction on account of B2B is, ensuring that existing supplies are enough to meet the requirements of household consumers.

Impact of lockdown on food products:

  • Fruits and vegetables (F&V), which are sold through APMC mandis are the food products that are likely to be impacted.
  • Inter-state movement restrictions have resulted in tomato-laden trucks from Andhra Pradesh not being allowed to cross over to Bengaluru or brinjal and beans from Karnataka not reaching consumers in Hyderabad.
  • Fruit traders and commission agents at Navi Mumbai’s Vashi market have announced suspension of operations from 25th March.
  • Such closures are, however, more likely in markets close to cities than the primary APMCs, where the bulk of the farmers bring their produce.
  • Further, there are reports of F&V collection and distribution centres of online grocers being shut by force and labourers engaged in grading and packing of produce not being permitted to go to their workplaces. Impediments such as these need to be removed soon.

Also Read: Exports rise for first time in seven months

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