(This story was first published in the Times of India on May 20, 2020)
MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government on Tuesday issued a new set of lockdown restrictions for red zones that will remain in force till May 31, drawing criticism from within the ruling coalition on the “inadequate” measures taken to kickstart a dormant economy.
The guidelines issued by chief secretary Ajoy Mehta grant no significant relaxation to the worst virus-afflicted areas including Mumbai, a decision NCP chief Sharad Pawar questioned in the context of the migrant exodus and its impact on various sectors.
“Government has relaxed certain conditions for reopening industries, but the revised guidelines are inadequate,” Pawar said. “A large number of workers have left for their hometowns. Unless they come back, it will be difficult to reopen industries. We have to draft a plan to bring them back.”
Under the new rules, the only concession for red zones like Mumbai, Thane and Pune is that the curbs will be limited to their municipal areas. But in Mumbai’s case, that will bring no respite as the city covers two districts entirely.
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State has simplified the classification of various regions, based on their coronavirus case load, into red and non-red zones.
All municipal areas within the MMR fall in the red zone apart from municipal corporations of Pune, Solapur, Aurangabad, Malegaon, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Akola and Amaravati. Yavatmal, Satara and Nagpur, which were in the red zone, have been moved out though Nagpur district officials are likely to write to the state asking it to keep Nagpur city in the red zone category.
Health minister Rajesh Tope said, “We are maintaining status quo in red zones as cases from these areas are still very high. In the remaining areas, we have given maximum relaxation. Industries have already opened in non-red zones and now more relaxations have been given to these zones to normalise life ," said Tope.
Officials said CM Uddhav Thackeray balked at allowing more activities to resume in red zones despite requests from various sections. Under the new rules that come into effect from May 22, essential shops will remain open in red zones and only those non-essential shops, which have been already allowed by the respective municipal corporation, will function.
On Tuesday Pawar said at a meeting, “The government has relaxed certain conditions for reopening of industries, but the revised guidelines are inadequate. A large number of workers and migrants have left for their homes states, so unless they come back, it will be difficult to reopen industries. We will have to draft a plan for bringing them back.”