The 21-day lockdown was announced in India by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, 2020 as a measure to fight against COVID-19. As the lockdown is approaching its end with the possibility of an extension, a letter has been issued by Ministry of Home Affairs raising concerns over the adherence to the issued guidelines. 

Here are the key highlights from the notification dated April 12, 2020:

1.    Urged the authorities to refer to the guidelines on Lockdown measures that are to be undertaken by the Ministries/ Department of Government of India, Sates/Union Territory Governments and State/Union Territory Authorities in order to contain the COVID-19 epidemic in the country.

2.    Pointed out that the aforesaid guidelines and notifications are not being implemented in some parts of the country. Specifically, the following:

  • trucks carrying essential and non-essential goods are being detained;
  • workers needed for operation of manufacturing units of essential goods, and other exempted categories are not getting authorization/passes for their movement;
  • inter Sate movement of goods and personnel related to categories (a) and (b) above is getting impeded as passes/authorizations issued by authorities of one State/UT are not being respected by the authorities of other States/UTs; and
  • operations of cold storage and warehouses are not being allowed.

3.    The restrictions being imposed with respect to activities specifically permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs have the potential of creating shortages of essential commodities. To bring in clarity for implementation, the following guidelines are to be followed by the authorities at different levels:

  • Irrespective of the nature of the cargo, inter-state and intra-state movement of all trucks and other goods/carrier vehicles with one driver and one additional person is allowed as long as the driver is carrying a valid driver’s license.
  • Empty trucks/good carriers should also be allowed to operate while on way to pick up goods, or returning after completing a delivery. Hence, there is no cause to stop empty trucks provided they have valid documents such as driving license & road permit etc. 
  • Local authorities should actively facilitate the movement of truck drivers and cleaners from their place of residence to location of their trucks.
  • Local authorities should facilitate the easy to and fro movement of workers to workplace and back, in respect of all the permitted industrial/commercial activities.
  • Railways, Airports, Seaports and Customs Authorities have already been authorized to issue passes for their staff and contractual labor. This may be ensured.
  • The State/UT Governments are advised to expeditiously issue passes to workers engaged in the manufacturing of permitted categories on the basis of authorizations, issued by companies/organizations. The State/UT Governments shall ensure that these passes are honored both for movement within their State/ UT and in bordering areas of other States/UTs.
  • MSMEs (Medium and Small Enterprises) engaged in the manufacture of essential items like wheat flour (atta), pulses (dal) and edible oils should be allowed to function freely, without any hindrances.
  • Without regard to nature of the goods, warehouses/cold storage should be allowed to freely function with allowance for to and fro movement of trucks. Warehouses of companies should also be allowed to operate.

4.    The stipulations are to be applied everywhere except areas that require containment, quarantine and surveillance measures (hotspots) as per the guidance of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India where the local or state governments have imposed restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

5.    In addition, the movement of persons and vehicles are to strictly adhere to the norms of hygiene and social distancing as required in the context of COVID-19.

6.    All district authorities and field agencies are to be informed of the instructions in order to avoid ambiguity at the ground level regarding the activities allowed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. This is to ensure that activities are carried out without hindrance.

The letter has been sent out from the office of the Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla to all chief secretaries and administrators. 

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