Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday stressed the need to protect both lives and the economy at the end of a video conference with the Chief Ministers to decide on extending the nationwide lockdown.
The comment marked an evolution in his government’s strategy to combat the spread of the highly infectious novel coronavirus – from shutting down all economic activity to prevent transmission to acknowledging that a phased re-opening of the economy may be necessary.
“In my first address I had said, ‘Jaan hai to jahaan hai (If there is life, the world will exist)’. We must now look at Jaan bhi, jahaan bhi (life and the world),” the Prime Minister said, referring to his address to the nation on March 24 – during which he announced the 21-day lockdown.
The conference was meant to help PM Modi decide whether or not to extend the lockdown, which is scheduled to end on April 14.
In line with that change in strategy, the Prime Minister has suggested specific measures for agriculture and allied sectors, including modification of laws to facilitate sale of farm produce; this will help vegetables reach end consumers quicker and ensure people stay indoors.
The Centre will also issue directions to restart the construction industry in a graded manner, sources said. This is likely to be a key move since the sector employs tens of thousands of migrant workers and daily wagers, whose plight during the current lockdown has made national headlines.