3-Week Nationwide Lockdown Won't be Lifted in One Go, Suggests PM Modi at All-party Meeting

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told floor leaders of opposition and other parties in Parliament that the nationwide lockdown will not be lifted in one go on April 14, according to BJD's Pinaki Misra.

Modi's comments came during an interaction with these leaders to discuss the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's efforts to contain the fast-spreading virus in the country.

"Prime Minister Modi made it clear that lockdown is not being lifted and also that the life pre-corona and post-corona will not be same," Biju Janata Dal leader Pinaki Misra told PTI.

Another leader, who participated in the meeting but did not wish to be named, said the Prime Minister told them that he will also consult chief ministers.

Those participated in the meet included Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, and Nationalist Congress Party head Sharad Pawar.

Sources said, these leaders were briefed by secretaries of various ministries---health, home and rural development --- on the actions taken by the government to tackle COVID-19 and mitigate the hardships arising out of the lockdown.

Several opposition leaders raised the issue of shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers in the country while few also suggested that construction of the new parliament building should be avoided, a source said.

The meet comes amidst indications that the Central government may extend the lockdown across the country beyond April 14 after several states have favoured the extension to contain the fast-spreading virus, as the positive cases in the country show no signs of any let up.

As per the Union health ministry's Wednesday morning update, there are 149 deaths and 5,194 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country even as the country entered its third week of nationwide lockdown.

Apart from Azad and Pawar, others who attended the virtual meet included, Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Satish Misra (Bahujan Samaj Party), Chirag Paswan (Lok Janshakti Party), T R Baalu (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), Sukhbir Singh Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal), Rajiv Ranjan Singh (Janata Dal-United), Pinaki Mishra (Biju Janata Dal) and Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena).

Giving up its initial reluctance, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) also attended the i

Sources said, these leaders were briefed by secretaries of various ministries---health, home and rural development --- on the actions taken by the government to tackle COVID-19 and mitigate the hardships arising out of the lockdown.

TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay was among the participants.

Modi interacted with leaders of those parties whose combined strength of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha adds up to five.

This is prime minister's first interaction with the floor leaders, including those from the Opposition, after the imposition of the nationwide lockdown on March 25 though he had held interactions with chief ministers of all states including those ruled by non-NDA parties.

The prime minister has also held interactions with various stakeholders, including doctors, journalists and heads of Indian missions to get a feedback on ways to check the spread of coronavirus.

He also recently spoke to various political party heads including Congress' Sonia Gandhi, TMC's Mamata Banerjee and DMK's MK Stalin and discussed the COVID-19 situation.

He had also talked to former presidents Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee, and former prime ministers HD Deve Gowda and Manmohan Singh.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who also attended the virtual meeting, said the government is likely to extend the ongoing lockdown beyond April 14 to combat the coronavirus spread.

He said his party put forth some suggestions with regard to the crisis in the farming sector. According to him, the Congress has suggested that farmers might be exempted from the 21-day lockdown for harvesting of Rabi crops. The party has also demanded that all taxes on fertilisers be withdrawn, he said.

The Congress leader said the party had suggested that those enrolled under the rural job scheme MGNREGA be given priority while carrying out harvesting of the standing crop.