Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai: Pressure is mounting from elected representatives and the district administration, especially the 14 districts in red zone, to extend the lockdown in Maharashtra until May 31.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is expected to reveal the state government’s stand at a video conference with PM Modi slated for Monday. This will be the prime minister’s fifth meeting with CMs since the lockdown began on March 25.

Thackeray, in his web address on May 8, had hinted that the government will not have much choice in the matter but to recommend extension of lockdown, if citizens are not fastidious about observing the norms.

Of the 36 districts in the state, 14 are in red zone -- Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nashik, Palghar, Nagpur, Solapur, Yavatmal, Aurangabad, Satara, Dhule, Akola, Jalgaon and Mumbai Suburban. At the same time, 16 districts are in the orange zone and only six in the green zone.

A part of the problem is that most of the red zone areas are also the economic hubs. Senior minister referred to Thackeray’s candid statement on May 8 that the lockdown was merely a speed breaker and the government has not managed to break the chain of transmission.

The central team has estimated that COVID 19 cases in the state will surge to 41,000 from the present level of 13,739 by May 27. There are signs of the virus abating in Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Jalgaon and Aurangabad districts. In fact, the daily death tally in Mumbai is in double digits.

Any haste in unravelling the lockdown may, therefore, prove disastrous. Uddhav’s dilemma is reinforced by the fact that an 11- member expert committee has suggested that various sectors of the state economy need to be opened up, albeit in a calibrated manner.

The committee has suggested that there is an urgent need for a concentrated thrust to agriculture and industry. Agriculture and allied activities provide livelihood to a majority of the people and COVID 19 has cast a shadow on the ensuing kharif season. Another imponderable is the monsoon season and whether the pandemic will peak in June and July, as the prime minister has predicted.

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