The Assam government on Monday, exempted construction of embankments and work in tea gardens and agricultural farms from the ambit of India’s ongoing lockdown. Starting from April 1, 2020, this move would lead to lakhs of people being free from the restrictions of social distancing. The nation-wide lockdown was announced on March 23, 2020 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in order to enforce social distancing in the country to stop the spread of Covid-19.

At a meeting of the council of ministers chaired by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the state government decided to exempt several sectors from the lockdown imposed to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The CM Office, Assam tweeted, “CM Shri Sarbanand Sonowal held a meeting with Ministers in Guwahati and took stock of prevailing situation due to #COVID19. A slew of packages were decided in the meeting to provide relief to the people of Assam.”

The following exemptions were decided upon in the meeting, starting April 1, 2020:

1.    Repairing and construction of embankments keeping in mind the upcoming monsoon season. 
2.    Functioning of tea gardens with permission from respective Deputy Commissioners.
3.    Permission to start agriculture related activities for farmers.
4.    All trucks carrying food items and other essentials stuck at Sri Rampur Gate along the Assam-West Bengal border to be allowed.
5.    Opening of all factories producing rice, flour and biscuits.

The meeting also granted the deputy commissioners of all districts the power to change timings of opening for grocery shops from Wednesday, the 1st of April. The people involved in these exempted sectors will have to abide by the instructions issued by the health department.

The move by the Assam government comes as a part of a special package which is set to benefit 72 lakh families. The ongoing lockdown has rendered many people in the state jobless.

The package offers a one-time assistance of Rs 1,000 provided to construction workers and those not covered under the National Food Security Act. Moreover, 58 lakh families under the NFSA are set to receive free rice according to the release. 

Under the announced package, 100 families in villages of 5,000 people, 150 families in areas of 5,000-10,000 people and 200 families in a place with a population of more than 10,000 will also get Rs 1,000 in assistance. Further, cash assistance to 250 families of each ward of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation and 100 families of each ward of other municipal bodies in the state has also been decided by the Assam government.

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