Punjab CM again rules out lockdown
Says current restrictions more stringent than lockdown in many states
Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday again ruled out a complete lockdown, noting that the restrictions currently in place were more stringent than the lockdown conditions in many other states, and announced a series of relaxations and relief measures to alleviate the woes of various sections of the people amid the prolonged crisis.
The relaxations include phased opening of shops, and various incentives for the housing sector, including 3-month extension in permission period of construction of plots/projects for allotments, whether private or allotted, by state urban development authorities.
Amid spiralling Covid cases, the Chief Minister ordered limiting of the number of teachers in government schools to 50%, with the rest taking online classes from home. He also directed the Food Department to prepare 5 lakh additional food packets for distribution among Covid patients, to ensure that every patient individually gets a packet even where there are more than one patient in a family. The state government has also announced additional 10 kg Atta for 1.41 crore Smart Ration Card beneficiaries. The food aid is in addition to the 1 lakh food kits, containing 10 Kg Atta, 2 Kg Chana and 2 Kg sugar already sanctioned for all poor people testing positive with Covid. It is also additional to the food aid announced by the Government of India.
Virtually chairing a cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister compared the Punjab restrictions with the curbs in place in states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, among others, and pointed out that it was not necessary to impose a total lockdown.
The Chief Minister said to meet immediate and urgent needs of the people at the local level, it had been decided by the government to authorize Sarpanches to spend up to Rs. 5,000 per day, subject to a maximum of Rs 50,000, out of Panchayat Funds for providing emergency relief by way of food & medicines to the poor and needy in the villages. All Urban Local Bodies have also been empowered to provide emergency relief, including food and medicines to the poor and needy, from the Municipal Fund.
Taking cognizance of the problems resulting from the restrictions, the Chief Minister asked the Social Welfare Department to immediate release social security / pension amounts to ensure that the people do not suffer further amid the current crisis.
For the Housing sector, apart from the permission extension, the Chief Minister has directed all Urban Development Authorities not to charge non-construction charges/extension fee/license renewal fee for the period 1st April – 31st July 2021. Further, Urban Development Authorities have been asked to waive the interest to be charged on any delayed Instalment, which was otherwise due between 1st April – 31st July 2021, provided that it is paid in equated monthly instalments after 1st August, 2021.
Taking note of the resentment among shopkeepers over selective closure of shops, the Chief Minister asked district administration officials to work out the phased shop reopening plan for their respective districts. Earlier, several cabinet ministers raised the issue of the resentment over selective closure of shops. Manpreet Badal, Tripat Bajwa and Bharat Bhushan Ashu, said the shopkeepers, especially in urban areas, were upset about the selective shop shutdown as part of the restrictions imposed in the state. The Chief Minister said the objective of the closure had been to prevent crowding but phased opening could be worked out by district administrations.
The Finance Minister earlier brought to the cabinet’s notice instances of private hospitals overcharging Covid patients despite fixing of rates. The Chief Minister directed the Health Department to investigate the matter and take stringent action against such private hospitals.