Hyderabad: The Telangana state government announced a lockdown in the state for 10 days from Wednesday, with a four-hour exemption for people to complete their essential work between 6 am and 10 am.
The Cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao here on Tuesday, decided to enforce the lockdown while exempting agriculture, health, construction, warehousing, e-commerce, door delivery of food and a few other sectors. The Cabinet will meet again on May 20 to review the situation and decide on continuance of lockdown.
During this 10-day period testing for Covid and vaccination will continue. Banks and ATMs will operate as usual, government offices will function with one-third staff, LPG cylinder supply will be normal and supply of water and sanitation works both in urban and rural areas have been exempted.
Procurement of paddy will continue and so will employment guarantee works. All estblishments were directed to pay the full salary to their employees during the lockdown.
The Cabinet decided to close down cinema halls, swimming pools, clubs, gyms, amusement parks and sports stadia. City transport and metro services will be restricted between 6 am and 10 am and public distribution system shops will be open only during the four-hour window.
Medical shops and hospitals will run round-the-clock. The lockdown does not cover goods vehicles carrying commodities on highways, while passenger vehicles will be stopped. Filling stations on highways will stay open. Inter-state bus services will be suspended.
After recovering from Covid, IT and industries minister K.T. Rama Rao was given the crucial responsibility of heading a task force that should ensure regular procurement and supply of medicines and injections. The Chief Minister also called manufacturers of remdesivir from the Cabinet meet and asked them to supply adequate quantities to the state.
The government which vehemently opposed the lockdown, as was evident from the statements of the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar two days ago, had a re-think with the Telangana High Court taking a serious view against the government’s handling of the second wave of Covid-19.
The government felt such pressure that it had to approve the lockdown and inform the High Court of the decision, besides leaking it to media while the Cabinet meeting was in progress.
While the Cabinet meet began at 2 pm, news of lockdown was out within 20 minutes. Earlier, the High Court, which took up hearing on petitions on Covid-19, adjourned the proceedings after the Advocate General assured that he would inform it about the Cabinet’s decision with regard to the lockdown.
After the decision was communicated to the court, the Division Bench led by Chief Justice Hima Kohli wondered how the announcement of the lockdown could be made so suddenly. It observed that people would be put to severe hardship if their movement was restricted without prior notice. It directed the state to take all precautions for smooth travel of guest workers, keeping in view their bitter experience during the nationwide lockdown last year.
Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi, the Hyderabad MP, however, took strong objection to clamping the lockdown which he said would cause severe loss of livelihood and urged the state government to not extend it beyond 10 days.