Monday | September 28,2020

Public for normality: Arvind Kejriwal

Shrikant Tiwari

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday told lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal that public opinion in the capital, entirely a red zone now, was in favour of further relaxations in the lockdown, pressing ahead with his “Live with Covid” dictum at a meeting of the disaster management authority.

The Aam Aadmi Party leader’s push for relaxations came two days after he had asked Delhi residents to come up with suggestions.

Sources said Kejriwal underscored the need for restarting economic activities when he met Baijal, the central government’s representative in Delhi, and officials of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority in the evening.

Delhi saw a 90 per cent drop in expected tax revenue last month.

A media release issued by the lieutenant-governor’s office later in the evening made no mention of Kejriwal’s demands.

Thursday’s push for normality was Kejriwal’s latest since he appeared on TV on May 2, saying: “We have to learn to live with the coronavirus”.

Earlier in the afternoon, in a webcast, the chief minister said his office had received more than 5.34 lakh views since he sought public sanction for his demand for relaxations on Tuesday.

While most wanted educational institutions, salons and recreation facilities to remain shut, many had questioned the order to stay indoors from 7pm to 7am, he said, and demanded that parks be reopened for people with lower risk of disease to exercise and build immunity.

Most people, he said, also wanted auto, taxi, bus and Metro services to resume with curbs on the number of passengers.

A “majority of (market) associations (are) suggesting that market places and complexes should open based on odd-even rules. Some people have suggested that even malls should be allowed to resume, with only a third or limited (number of) shops allowed to operate…. They (industry associations) have suggested the complete resumption of industries and arrangements for employing labourers living in nearby areas of Delhi,” Kejriwal said.

He said the current restrictions on construction activities — like on-site living arrangement for workers — must be relaxed so that workers from anywhere in Delhi can work at any construction site.

Delhi has 5,310 active Covid-19 cases, according to figures till Wednesday midnight, while 115 people have died of the infection.

After Kejriwal’s May 2 thrust for normality, the Centre too had begun to push this line from May 8 when the health ministry spokesperson echoed this sentiment.

Basant Somani, chairman, Narela Industrial Complex Welfare Association, told The Telegraph: “Less than two out of three factories are functioning because of a plethora of rules. These include making proprietors liable and sealing of factories if any employee tests positive. We can issue masks, install sanitiser sprinkler machines and do thermal scanning on entry, but we are unable to provide social-distancing compliant transport for all workers as well as (implement a) few other regulations.”

Sources in the government and the AAP said the push for relaxations was driven by the fear of an economic depression that could make the party’s populist schemes unaffordable without incurring a large deficit.

The AAP government has cautioned bureaucrats, police and homeowner associations that high-handed enforcement and vigilante actions could impede economic recovery.

“It was easy to put the country and Delhi into lockdown, but lifting the lockdown and reviving the economy will be much more difficult,” Kejriwal said in his webcast.

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