<br>Sources indicated that a consolidated report submitted to the Prime Minister's Office from the Home Ministry on Monday, based on assessments, had mentioned the implementation of earlier guidelines as well as a zone-specific plan to fight the pandemic. The government would start a mammoth exercise from next Monday (April 20) to categorise the country in zones.
A new set of exemptions in services and essential items is expected to be released as per the reports prepared by the Joint Secretary and above officials from different ministries following the countrywide exercise.
In this exercise, the Aarogya Setu App would play a major role, an official told IANS, adding it would help in categorising area-specific COVID-19 cases.
Here's an explainer on the zones:
Red: Areas with substantial numbers of positive cases would fall under this zone where there will be complete restriction. The government will try to provide door-to-door facilities in these areas.
Orange: The areas with a limited number of cases in the past and with no surge in positive cases recently would be included under the orange zone. Only restricted activities such as limited public transport and farm product harvesting is expected to be allowed in the coronavirus orange zone.
Green: The districts with no coronavirus positive cases would fall under the green zone. Exemptions may be given in these sectors as per the government's plan. Limited movement of people linked to essential services and business may be given extension. Opening of liquor shops and other essential items that play a major role in generating state revenue may get extension in this zone.
Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) engaged in manufacturing of essential items like wheat four (atta), pulse (dal) and edible oils would be allowed to function freely in orange and green zones with strict maintenance of social distancing.
Agricultural activities are also likely to be allowed in these zones. Warehouse, cold storage will be allowed to freely function with allowance for to and fro movement of trucks and without regard to the nature of the goods whether essential or otherwise. Warehouses of companies should also be allowed to operate.
Movement of persons and vehicles, however, will have to follow the strict adherence to norms of hygienic and social distancing as it is required in the COVID-19 context.
It is strictly mentioned that the state and field authorities will implement the guideline related to trucks with "letter and spirit".
As per this "intra-state and inter-state movement of all trucks and other goods or carrier vehicles with one driver and one additional person is allowed as long as the driver is carrying a valid driver's licence. "This is irrespective of the nature of the cargo, whether essential or otherwise. No further permit or approval would be required."
The guideline issued by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on April 12 clearly directs the states and Union Territories (UTs) that "empty trucks or 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 and road permit".
The government's focus would be to ensure that railways, airports, seaports, and customs authorities issue passes to their staff and contractual labour.
Similar steps would be taken by states and UTs so that they expedite issuing passes to workers engaged in manufacturing units.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted on [email protected])