Lockdown won't be lifted in one go: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told floor leaders of opposition and other parties in Parliament that the nationwide lockdown will not be lifted in one go on April 14, according to BJD’s Pinaki Misra.

Modi’s comments came during an interaction with these leaders to discuss the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s efforts to contain the fast-spreading virus in the country.

“Prime Minister Modi made it clear that lockdown is not being lifted and also that the life pre-corona and post-corona will not be same,” Biju Janata Dal leader Pinaki Misra told PTI.

Another leader, who participated in the meeting but did not wish to be named, said the Prime Minister told them that he will also consult chief ministers.

Those participated in the meet included Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, and Nationalist Congress Party head Sharad Pawar.

Sources said these leaders were briefed by secretaries of various ministries—health, home and rural development —on the actions taken by the government to tackle COVID-19 and mitigate the hardships arising out of the lockdown.

Several opposition leaders raised the issue of shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers in the country while few also suggested that construction of the new parliament building should be avoided, a source said.

The meet comes amidst indications that the Central government may extend the lockdown across the country beyond April 14 after several states have favoured the extension to contain the fast-spreading virus, as the positive cases in the country show no signs of any let up.

Apart from Azad and Pawar, others who attended the virtual meet included, Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Satish Misra (Bahujan Samaj Party), Chirag Paswan (Lok Janshakti Party), T R Baalu (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam),  Sukhbir Singh Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal), Rajiv Ranjan Singh (Janata Dal-United), Pinaki Mishra (Biju Janata Dal) and Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena).

Giving up its initial reluctance, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) also attended the interaction. TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay was among the participants.

Modi interacted with leaders of those parties whose combined strength of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha adds up to five.

This is prime minister’s first interaction with the floor leaders, including those from the Opposition, after the imposition of the nationwide lockdown on March 25 though he had held interactions with chief ministers of all states including those ruled by non-NDA parties.

Situation akin to ‘social emergency:’

The situation in the country is akin to a “social emergency” and it has necessitated tough decisions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told political leaders as he asserted that his government’s priority is to “save each and every life”.

Modi told the leaders that the country is facing “serious economic challenges as a result of COVID-19, and the government is committed to overcoming them.”