GUWAHATI, April 12 - The State government will not take any decision on relaxing the lockdown on its own and will abide by the Central government�s directions. This was decided at the meeting of the council of ministers held at the Administrative Staff College here under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal this afternoon. �The State government has decided that it will not take any unilateral decision regarding relaxing the lockdown till the Central government issues any instruction. We will wait for the Central government�s instruction and abide by it,� Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said after the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister urged upon leaders of all political parties to strengthen the spirit of �Team Assam� and to work together to help the State overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chairing an all-party meet convened by the government to elicit suggestions from leaders here today, Sonowal said in view of increase in the COVID-19 cases in Assam all political parties need to demonstrate unity at this time of pandemic. At this time of extraordinary health emergency, both the government and the opposition should work in unison to help the State machinery to wage a war against this unseen threat, he observed.
The Chief Minister said that COVID-19 has pushed the government to focus on people�s health as well as the State�s economy. He said there is no denying that complete lockdown has had its effect on the economic activities of the people and also on the overall economic health of the State. He said the government is enforcing the lockdown to break the chain of transmission.
He said during lockdown the government machinery has shown its commitment to make available of all essential commodities within the reach of every individual.
The government is implementing its schemes resolutely, including transfer of financial benefits to bank accounts of beneficiaries to look after their subsistence during this critical period, he added.
Sonowal thanked the leaders of the all-party meeting for mooting an idea of thanking all the frontline personnel right from doctors to safai karmis, ASHA workers and ambulance drivers for putting in their best services in the fight against COVID-19 and work on the medical response for mitigation.
Regarding the workers and other people of Assam stranded in other parts of the country, the Chief Minister said the Assam Bhawans and Assam Houses in different states have been directed to take care of their accommodation and food. He requested all the leaders to keep a constant vigil in every constituency of the State and bring to government�s notice if anybody is left out of the schemes being implemented.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma gave a presentation regarding the COVID-19 situation in the State and the facilities and different health measures undertaken for the treatment management of the pandemic.
Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia said besides the immediate task of unitedly fighting to prevent the spread of COVID-19, attention should also be paid on ensuring revival of economic activity in the post-pandemic period.
Saikia, who is also the leader of the State Congress Legislature Party (CLP), rued the fact that rules of lockdown and norms of social distancing have been at times flouted at various places due to rumours about disbursement of essential materials and said more publicity should be made using the DIPR so that citizens do not get influenced by rumours that could complicate the situation and pose health hazard.
He added that essential items are not reaching all places equally and called upon the government to make the distribution system more effective.
Saikia said that COVID-19 will impact the economy is a big way. He said there is need for creation of a special task force where leaders of various political parties can have an advisory role and which will also include subject experts as executives to formulate and implement a roadmap for economic revival in the post COVID-19 situation.
He said the government should, in consultation with Central and State agencies, make an effort to use the existing cold storages of Assam so that farmers� fresh produce could be stored and processed, and prevented from getting spoiled.
He said the government should also take special care for the small tea growers as well as the 13 lakh weavers of Assam who have been affected by the lockdown, and provide incentives for such people. He also called for expanding the MGNRGEA and increasing the man-days to 150 days from 100 days.
Saikia said that with work in tea gardens resuming utmost care should be given for health and sanitation of tea garden workers and also for ensuring that they receive their full wages. He said that rations for tea garden labourers should be lifted through FCI as the open markets are currently not functioning with full capacity.
He added that 67 per cent of the 30 lakh agricultural families of Assam are marginal farmers and over 20 lakh such families are still to be covered under various government schemes. He said the government should fix the lacunae.
He cited government data which states that there are only two lakh registered labourers in Assam while the number of unregistered workers in the unorganised sector is close to 40 lakh. The unorganised sector workers should also be provided relief at the time of the lockdown, he suggested.
AIUDF general secretary Aminul Islam said no particular community or religious group should be targeted or blamed for spread of COVID-19 cases. He said a tendency has been noticed in the State wherein members of a particular community have been made the target, especially through the media and the social media.
He said this could impact social unity in Assam in the future and called for law enforcement agencies to take prompt action against anybody found to be guilty of casting aspersions on any community or religious group.
Islam said the names and addresses of people, who have tested COVID-19 positive in Assam, have been made public and it has resulted in such people and their families facing social boycott at times. He demanded that the State government refrain from doing that and instead follow the April 8 circular issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which calls for confidentiality of the identity of COVID-19 positive people.
The AIUDF appreciated the role played by the Chief Minister and the Health Minister in visiting various places across Assam to take stock of the healthcare facilities and for boosting the morale of the citizens at the time of the global pandemic.
The party suggested relaxation for the agriculture and allied sectors so that farmers are able to secure necessary items like fuel, fertilizer, pesticide, machinery parts as well as services of mechanics. Islam also called upon the government to help those people of Assam stranded at various places across the State as well as in neighbouring states since onset of the lockdown so that they can be sent to their respective homes after proper testing.
CPI(M) Assam unit secretary Deben Bhattacharyya stressed on the need to mitigate the problems faced by the weaker and marginalised sections of the people during the lockdown.
Leaders of other parties, including AGP, BJP, BPF, CPI, CPI(ML), NCP, RJD, Trinamool Congress and UPPL also took part in the meeting and gave suggestions to contain and control COVID-19 in the State.
State ministers Atul Bora, Keshab Mahanta, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, DGP Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta and other leaders and senior officers were present at the meeting.
All-party meet calls for united fight against COVID-19