PM-CM meet may focus on calibrated lockdown exit strategy; railways to resume ops tomorrow

PM-CM meet may focus on calibrated lockdown exit strategy; railways to resume ops tomorrow

With exactly seven days left before the third phase of the lockdown ends on the midnight of May 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with chief ministers of all states via video-conferencing this afternoon.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a tweet on Sunday: “PM @narendramodi to hold the 5th meeting via video-conference with state Chief Ministers tomorrow afternoon at 3 PM. 

The announcement followed Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba’s review of the status and management of the pandemic in different states with the chief secretaries through a video-conference on Sunday.

In the meeting, state chief secretaries called for a calibrated stepping up of economic activities. 

Today’s meeting is expected to be a long one, broken into two sessions, as Modi is expected to hear the views of all the CMs before deciding on the next move.

Unlike earlier meetings where only select chief ministers were selected to speak, the fifth meeting will give all CMs an opportunity to share their opinion.

The government is likely to announce further easing of restrictions to restart economic activities.

India is taking cautious steps toward easing lockdown restrictions, but the fallout from widespread shutdowns demonstrates the pressure to get the country’s economy moving even though the coronavirus still poses a grave threat.

India’s coronavirus count has crossed 67,000-mark and the death toll stands at 2,206. Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi have seen the largest spike in cases. Over the past seven days, these three states account for 34 per cent of all coronavirus related deaths.

On Sunday evening, Maharashtra reported 1,278 new infections and 53 Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours. With a surge in coronavirus infections, the total number of infected persons in the state has risen to 22,171, a State Health Department said.

Meanwhile, in what is seen as part of COVID-19 lockdown exit strategy and a big step towards normalcy, the Indian Railways will resume passenger services gradually with trains to 15 destinations from tomorrow.

According to the Union Ministry of Railways order on the gradual resumption of passenger services,  bookings for these trains — all originating from the New Delhi Railway Station — will resume at 4 pm today only on the website of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), while ticket counters will continue to remain closed.

These special trains will run from New Delhi Station to Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi, added the government order. Few of these trains may not be daily.

When Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown that came into force on March 25, the largest rail network in the world took the unprecedented move of suspending passenger trains across the country. It was the first time in 167 years that the operations of the Indian Railways had been suspended.

Commercial flight operations were also suspended in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In an interview with Outlook, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said that domestic flight operations are likely to resume by May 15.

“My effort will be to try and move in the direction of starting it very soon,” the minister said.