Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday allayed fears that the government may enforce another lockdown as coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases surge in the capital, saying saving the economy is equally important as fighting Covid-19 even as he called an all-party meeting to discuss the pandemic situation in the city.
Kejriwal had said on Tuesday that he has sought permission from the central government to allow the Delhi government to temporarily shut down markets, which are assessed as potential Covid-19 hot spots from time to time due to rampant violation of social distancing norms and other Covid-19 regulations. The CM said that his decision should not be seen as a move to enforce “lockdown”.
A day earlier, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain had said that a lockdown was out of the question.
Under the current guidelines, states need the approval of the Union home ministry for imposing any local lockdown-like restrictions.
The file concerning the Delhi government’s proposal was sent to the office of Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Anil Baijal and later forwarded by him to the Union home ministry. A response from the Centre is awaited, said a senior government official.
“It should not be called a lockdown. For the next few days, we will observe the situation on the ground, especially violation of Covid-19 regulations and assess if any particular market can turn into a hot spot. It is not that we are shutting down markets. Saving economy is equally important for us as fighting against Covid-19. We will try all means. We will not close any market unless it is extremely necessary. As of now, we have only sought permission,” Kejriwal said.
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Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia also weighed in. He said, “We believe the solution to Covid-19 is in better management of healthcare resources and not in a lockdown. We have done our best in terms of healthcare management so far and we would continue our efforts. If needed, regulations would be increased in some markets. We have sought permission for that from the Centre. It should not be seen as a lockdown.”
While the Delhi government is yet to chalk out the modalities in this regard, Kejriwal’s announcement has led to concern among traders.
Brijesh Goyal, president of the chamber of trade and industry, said: “Due to the news of the lockdown in Delhi and the closure of the Delhi markets, there has been restlessness among the traders of Delhi. We convened a video conference today with more than 200 trader bodies and they opined that there should be no lockdown in Delhi nor should any market be closed.”
Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary-general of the confederation of all India traders, said: “The Delhi CM did not consider it appropriate to talk to the traders of Delhi before sending yesterday a proposal to the central government, seeking permission to close the Delhi markets. It is a unilateral decision of Delhi CM which has caused a lot of resentment among the traders. The fast-spreading Covid-19 epidemic in Delhi is a matter of concern and the trading community is more eager to play an active role. But certainly at this stage instead of temporary solutions, an effective and comprehensive strategy is required.”
On Wednesday, the Delhi government issued a notice for an all-party meeting in the light of the Covid-19 situation in the Capital, said a senior government official.
Delhi on Wednesday recorded 7,486 new Covid-19 cases and 131 more deaths, said the government’s health bulletin.
Also Read: ‘Measures being taken to address shortage in number of ICU beds’: Kejriwal
“The chief minister has desired to convene an all-party meeting of major political parties,” said a notice issued by the additional secretary to the CM. Government spokespersons, however, did not elaborate on the agenda.
The meeting is scheduled at 11 am in the premises of the Delhi Secretariat.
Leader of Opposition in Delhi Legislative Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri said, “No further decision should be taken till the all-party meeting is convened on Thursday.”
Bidhuri, a BJP MLA, further said that he has written to the L-G, urging him to postpone the implementation of the cap of 50 guests in wedding-related gatherings, and also requested him to delay the proposal regarding markets.
Chaudhary Anil Kumar, president of Delhi Congress, said, “The Congress will participate in the all-party meeting and submit suggestions that would contribute to the fight against Covid-19.”
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