States and union territories (UTs) can take stricter action than what is mentioned in the guidelines issued by the central government to enforce the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID19 but cannot dilute or weaken them, the Home Ministry said on Monday.
Joint secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), PunyaSalila Srivastava, said home secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote fresh communication tothe states as some of them were issuing certain guidelines that amounted to"diluting" the lockdown leading to "severe repercussions tohealth" of the citizens.
"MHA is regularly monitoring the lockdown situation inthe country. Wherever lockdown is being violated we (MHA) are taking adequateaction in coordination with state governments," she said while briefingreporters about the updates on lockdown measures being implemented across thecountry.
"Yesterday, MHA again wrote letter to states and UTsthat guidelines issued by it under the disaster management Act are to befollowed strictly," she said.
"They (states and UTs) can undertake stricter steps asper their local conditions but not dilute or weaken them," she added.
Writing this letter became important, she said, as in somestates facilities were being allowed which were not permitted under the MHAguidelines.
The ministry also wrote to the Kerala government about thedirectives issued by the state and expressed its concerns over it, she said.
The ministry, through a letter written by Bhalla to Keralachief secretary Tom Jose, came down heavily on the state government for itsdecision to allow opening of restaurants, bus travel in cities and opening ofMSME industries in urban areas, saying it amounts to dilution of lockdownguidelines and also a Supreme Court observation.
Srivastava said that some things, mentioned in theKerala-issued order, violated MHA guildelines issued under the disastermanagement Act and was tantamount to "diluting the lockdown."
They were requested that national guidelines should befollowed, she said.
Also, attention was drawn towards the Supreme Courtobservation of March 31 where it said that all state governments and peopleshould follow the central government's directives with honesty and dedicationand in letter and spirit.
The MHA officer said it was found that some districts inother states were also violating the lockdown and that can have "severerepercussions for health."
In some districts, she said, the COVID19 situation is graveor is inching towards that.
Srivastava identified these districts as Jaipur inRajasthan, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Kolkata,Howrah, North 24 Parganas, MedinipurEast, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Kalimpong in West Bengal.
She said six inter-ministerial teams have been formed by theMHA for visiting the above mentioned four states and they have now reachedtheir respective locations.
These teams are led by an additional secretary-rank officerof the central government and each of them have six members comprising a seniorpublic health specialist and an official from the National Disaster ManagementAuthority (NDMA), she said.
The MHA's effort is to ensure that all available expertise,as far as possible, should be shared with the states in the interest of thepeople.
These teams will assess the hotspot areas, health andmedical infrastructure management, issues related to disaster management andwill "cooperate" with the states.
They will give a report on the lockdown rules and supply ofessential goods, social distancing norms, health services and security ofhealth workers and also check the status of relief camps being run for poor andlabourers in these states.
"The purpose of the inter-ministerial teams is toprovide support and assistance to the states in their endeavour to combatCOVID19," she said.
"The teams have been very carefully constituted so thatsupport can be provided from health, administrative and disaster managementaspects and I am sure states will benefit from it," she added.Wehope that with these steps, we will be successful in the mission againstcoronavirus, the officer said.