New Delhi, May 29: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Home Minister Amit Shah and senior officials today to discuss the way forward as the coronavirus lockdown, extended thrice, ends on Sunday. A decision is likely to be taken on Saturday on whether to extend the restrictions amid the steady rise in virus cases, given the need to reopen economic activity. The Home Ministry has been asked to analyse inputs from various sectors and states.
Some states have already extended the virus lockdown and “nothing stops them from taking any further steps on their own”, sources said.
Congress-ruled states have reportedly asked for an end to the lockdown. States like Karnataka have demanded the reopening of religious centres, which, the sources say, will need a political call.
Religious places and gatherings, which draw huge crowds and challenge attempts to enforce physical distancing, have stayed banned since the country went into lockdown in late March.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the country’s top bureaucrat, and other top ministers were present in the meeting.
On Thursday, Amit Shah spoke to various Chief Ministers and asked for feedback on a plan after lockdown4 ends on Sunday. This marked a shift from the earlier process of the Prime Minister video conferencing with Chief Ministers to get their views before extending a lockdown.
All Chief Ministers have given their views on how they want to move forward. Over the last few days, the Prime Minister’s Office has also reviewed the entire lockdown period and the trend of virus cases and deaths. Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, after his conversation with Shah, claimed a possibility of the lockdown being extended by two more weeks.
The government has been concerned about sharp criticism of its strategy to counter coronavirus, which has pushed it to change its stance on several occasions.
Home Ministry sources said the way forward on the lockdown “would be a political call”.
The government’s options include staying with the National Disaster Management Act, which empowers the Centre to take all the decisions regarding health, which is a state subject.
During the last extension of the lockdown in mid-May, the government had allowed many relaxations, leaving it to states to decide on what to reopen and what stays shut.