Kerala's proposal to ease lockdown restrictions draws Centre's ire

Deccan Chronicle.  | Smitha N

Nation, Current Affairs

The state government has announced relaxation of lockdown restrictions in two zones, allowing dine-in services among others from Monday

People stand in a queue at a mobile phone shopping complex to purchase and repair mobile phones in Kochi. (PTI)

Kochi: The Union Home Ministry has taken strong objection to the Kerala government's decision to allow opening of restaurants, bus travel in cities and opening of MSME industries in municipal areas, saying it amounts to dilution of its lockdown guidelines.

Home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has sent a letter to Kerala chief secretary seeking explanation for easing lockdown restrictions in violation of the Centre’s guidelines, reports regional media.

The home ministry said the state government on April 17 has circulated revised guidelines for lockdown measures which allowed opening of activities which are prohibited in the Centre's consolidated revised guidelines issued on April 15.

The Kerala government’s decision to permit book stores, restaurants, hair cutting salons,  MSMEs in municipal limits and workshops to function, bus travel in cities and towns for a shorter distance, two passengers in the back seat of four-wheelers and pillion riding on scooters is against the directives, the Home ministry observed. Permission for small industries in urban areas to resume operation also is in violation of the directive.

As per the Ministry’s letter, no state or Union Territory can dilute the guidelines and allow activities as per their wish. Only those sectors and essential services which are clearly mentioned in the Central guidelines can be given relaxations. The Centre said this relaxation of lockdown norms is not permissible at any cost and cited an observation made by the Supreme Court last month to be noted as a direction in this regard.

The Centre, which issued notice to few other states, is expected to take action based on the explanation provided by the state government.

Kerala government has announced relaxation of lockdown norms for seven districts from Monday (April 20) which have been categorised as green, orange A and orange B. In Kottayam and Idukki which are included in green zone, most of the restrictions have been eases, except the ban on cinema halls, places of worship, shopping malls, public transport, inter district and interstate travels, and mass gatherings. Movement of private vehicles has also been allowed on an odd-even basis.

However, lockdown will be strictly complied with in red zone districts like Kozhikode, Kasargod, Kannur and Malappuram.