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Task force to reduce economic impact; employers told to pay employees in full

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday urged Indians across the country to face the coronavirus pandemic with collective determination and patience to make sure that “humanity and India prevails”. In his address to the nation on television, Mr. Modi also announced the setting up of the COVID-19 task force, under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, for measures to mitigate some of the economic hardships engendered by the pandemic.

There were nine calls to action in Mr. Modi’s address, including a self-imposed ‘janata curfew’ (people’s curfew) on March 22, not to resort to panic-buying, asking senior citizens to stay indoors, social-distancing, avoiding elective surgery or routine health check-ups not to overburden health services, asking employers to pay employees in full when they have to stay home and to stay away from rumours.

Serious situation

The pandemic, he said, was a serious, global crisis, “involving more countries than any previous natural or political crisis, even during World War I or World War II.”

Mr. Modi said that as there was no clear treatment, medicine or vaccine to counter the coronavirus, it was incumbent on people to observe escalation via social-distancing. He asked all Indians to observe a voluntary people’s curfew between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday. This would be observed and implemented by the people themselves, not to stir out of their houses.

He also asked that on Sunday, at 5 p.m., people should step out on their balconies, verandas or doorways and clap or beat thalis (metal plates) to express their appreciation for the work of workers at hospitals, airports, railways, and other essential services, who, he said, “were our bulwark, till now against the pandemic.”

Normal life disrupted with prohibitory orders imposed in State; fear of lockdown triggers panic buying

A deserted Badi Chaupar in Jaipur on Thursday after the imposition of prohibitory orders in Rajasthan. Rohit Jain Paras

The prohibitory orders imposed in entire Rajasthan after the detection of three fresh COVID-19 positive cases in Jhunjhunu disrupted normal life in several parts of the State on Thursday, with the roads and markets wearing a deserted look, public and private functions being called off and people mostly staying indoors.

Residents of Jhunjhunu town, where curfew was clamped in a one-km radius area around the infected family’s house for two days, were in a state of shock. Jhunjhunu Collector U.D. Khan said about 350 teams of the Medical & Health Department had started surveillance in three zones to trace those who came in contact with the COVID-19-positive couple and their daughter. “The screening of the entire population will be done to ensure that no positive cluster is formed in the town,” said Mr. Khan. About 20 persons whom the family had met during the last 10 days after their arrival from Italy were shifted to a special isolation ward in Churela village.

The prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code, disallowing the assembly of 20 or more persons at public places, led to panic buying of essential items by people in Jaipur, who fear a complete lockdown in the days to come. Pappu Meena, handling the counter at Taza Phal Sabzi Bhandar in Jawahar Nagar locality, said buyers were stockpiling vegetables and fruits because of uncertainty. “The supplies are unhindered, but Section 144 has instilled an apprehension among the people,” he said.

Rumours hit business

Arif Ali, a shopkeeper selling fish and chicken in the nearby Gole Market, said people were eating lesser quantity of non-vegetarian food after a rumour spread about infection in meat. “We are in the market to sell our goods. Why should people panic?”

The tourism and hospitality industry in the desert State is set to get the shock of prohibitory orders with the closure of all tourist places and historical monuments. Ramakant Saini, a security guard outside Pink Square Mall, said the government’s decision to curtail movements would lead to loss of livelihood for thousands of poor people in the city.

R.S. Khangarot, principal of Agrawal Post-Graduate College, said the institution was open for routine administrative work and faculty members were attending the college for planning of the next academic session. “Section 144 is not applicable inside the college,” he remarked.

Cabinet sub-committee to look into issue of ‘date and place of parents’ birth’

Women have been in the lead in the protests over CAA, NCR and NPR with the demonstration in Mumbai Central continuing non-stop for almost two months now. File photoPrashant Nakwe

A Cabinet sub-committee to decide the fate of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) in Maharashtra will visit Bihar and Tamil Nadu to study how the provisions can be implemented “in its 2010 form” with one amendment.

The committee, headed by State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anil Parab, held its first meeting on Thursday and decided that Maharashtra must reject the latest NPR amendments, including those related to the contentious clause related to ‘date and place of parents’ birth’. Maharashtra is willing to implement the NRC/NPR if the clause is dropped like in Bihar and Tamil Nadu, committee members believed.

The two States were among the first to pass resolutions not to implement NRC, and said the NPR should be implemented “in its 2010 form” with one amendment. “We want to study their model and will soon visit these States. Once the visit is complete, we will submit our report to the Chief Minister, who will decide what stand Maharashtra has to take,” said a senior State minister.

Thursday’s meeting was attended by Minority Development Minister Nawab Malik, Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, Animal Husbandry Minister Sunil Kedar, Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had announced in the recently-concluded Budget session that a committee had been formed to guide him to take a final decision on the contentious legislations.

The committee was constituted on March 13, 2020.

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