Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked his council of ministers to firm up a business continuity plan and brace for fighting the “economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on a war footing” once the lockdown is lifted.
In a meeting, via video conference, Modi asked the ministers concerned to ensure that the Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package, announced late last month, is implemented swiftly and seamlessly to soften the blow to the poor and the vulnerable.
As part of the package, the government has declared a transfer of Rs 500 a month to 20.4 crore women Jan Dhan account holders for three months, and free grains through the PDS.
Modi also asked the ministers to convert this adversity into an opportunity and boost Make in India to cut reliance on imports.
He also directed the ministers to identify ten priority areas for their respective ministries to focus on once the lockdown is lifted and undertake their unfinished reforms agenda.
To ease supplies of essential commodities and ensure that farmers get a fair price for their produce even in such difficult times, the Prime Minister called for exploring innovative solutions like “truck aggregators”, on the lines of the app-based cab services like Uber and Ola, to connect farmers with Mandis. At the same time, he highlighted the need to ensure there is no crowding at PDS centres. Actions should also be initiated against blackmarketeers to contain any unusual spike in prices of essentials, he said.
The Prime Minister exhorted his colleagues to remain in touch with state authorities and help formulate even district-level micro plans, especially for the hotspots of the pandemic. Simialrly, the ministers were asked to popularise Aarogya Setu app, which is designed to inform its users about risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the pandemic. The app exceeded five million downloads in the first three days since its launch last week. Lockdown measures and social distancing norms need to go hand in hand, he added.
For their part, the ministers apprised the Prime Minister about efforts to tackle difficulties faced by migrant labourers, prevent the misuse of social media to create panic, keep supplies of essential items steady and mitigate issues faced by front-line workers.
Top government officials gave detailed presentations on steps being taken to meet the emerging challenges. The meeting was attended by all Union ministers, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet secretary and other top bureaucrats in various ministries.