Free lunch, cash doles on cards: Maharashtra govt to mull over  financial package before lockdown announcement
Free lunch, cash doles on cards: Maharashtra govt to mull over financial package before lockdown announcement
Ajit Pawar/ Twitter

Mumbai: Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Monday made a strong case for the imposition of 15-day lockdown to break the chain of virus transmission and for the government to use this time to fortify the health infrastructure and achieve optimum utilisation of existing facilities. Tope’s statement comes close on the heels of the government’s preparation for a comprehensive financial package for the underprivileged and poor. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had a telephonic conversation with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to discuss the financial package. It will be fine-tuned by Tuesday or early Wednesday before the government issues the lockdown notification.

The size of the proposed financial package will be determined after taking into the present state of the state’s finances. As reported by The Free Press Journal, the state government expects to announce a lockdown from the midnight of April 14 till 11.59 pm on April 30.

“I have argued at the taskforce committee meeting that a lockdown of 5 or 8 days won’t work but it has to be for a fortnight, given the rising cases in the state. However, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will announce the government decision,” he said.

Tope has urged the people to be ready for a lockdown. “The government has no plans to suspend public transport but there could be curbs on travelling to avoid crowding. The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees and sugar factories will function and agriculture activities will go on. Similarly, industrial units can operate but with a rider that the promoters will have to make arrangements for their workers’ stay on the premises,” he said.

Tope’s statement comes at a time when the state government is in the midst of providing a financial package for poor and weaker sections, the working class and those below the poverty line.

A senior bureaucrat said, “The government proposes to pay three months’ advance to the beneficiaries of the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana. Further, Shiv Bhojan thalis will be served free of cost (currently, they cost Rs 5 each) across the state. In addition, the government plans to pay Rs 2,000 each to the construction workers listed with the labour department.” He further said, Rs 2,000 might be deposited in the accounts of 11.55 lakh tribal families in the state under the Khavti scheme implemented last year.

Moreover, tribals would be provided essential food items such as dal, rice, foodgrain, salt and sugar.

Another bureaucrat said the government proposed to distribute foodgrain not just to beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act but also to those outside its ambit. “Last year, the government had distributed to both. Those not covered under the National Food Security Act, were, as an exception, provided foodgrain under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana. The state government bore the cost and delivered it for four months. They were also given 5kg of rice, and later, both rice and wheat. In addition, one kg of milled dal was also provided. The government is working to provide food grains on the similar lines,” he noted.

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