Govt offices outside Covid hot spots to resume work

Government offices across the country are set to become functional from Monday as states have allowed resumption of work for most departments, especially in the rural areas.

The Centre on Wednesday issued guidelines, which allowed activities like the conditional reopening of industries in rural areas and economic enclaves, to restart the economy from Monday outside the Covid-19 containment zones.

In states such as Karnataka, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, the entire lower rung staff will return to work. Up to one-third of ministerial and subordinate staff will work on a rotation basis, orders issued by these state said.

Thermal scanners and sanitisers have been made mandatory at all government offices and social distancing will have to be practised. Each office will have a nodal officer to ensure hygiene and social distancing, said an order issued by the Uttar Pradesh government.

Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa said two-wheelers in the state will be allowed to run without any passes even as interstate and interdistrict travel will remain prohibited.

Punjab chief secretary Keshni Anand Arora said the state government has issued about 4,000 transit permits to over 120 companies to restart work. Haryana has ordered that no toll tax will be collected along state highways.

To ensure a smooth supply of goods, restaurants, fuel stations and motor vehicle repair garages along highways have been allowed to function.

The National Highway Authority of India has also announced no collection of toll tax along highways during the lockdown period.

All mining activity in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh would resume, officials in these states said.

While gatherings remain barred in most states, Uttarakhand has allowed weddings with just five guests. Sweet shops in West Bengal will open till 8 pm daily, whereas only takeaway restaurants have been allowed in other states.

Technology companies in Karnataka and Telangana will become fully operational with social distancing norms.

Construction works in all states would also resume with a condition of in-situ stay for workers at the construction sites. Contractors have been told to provide stranded migrant workers option to work at construction sites, if there is a shortage of labour.

Industry leaders have said to restart factories to ensure pre-lockdown production levels will take a few months, with many saying the full production would start only by June end. Many said that the condition that factory owners would be liable if a worker tests positive for Covid-19 is a hurdle to the resumption of the production.

“Small and medium factory owners cannot get the workers tested and without the tests, there is a risk of getting booked. Many of my friends are scared to open factories in such a scenario,” said a Jaipur-based factory owner, who was not willing to be named.

Factory owners echoed similar sentiments in Punjab also.

Many states have also allowed e-commerce companies to sell non-essential goods from Monday and prompted Congress leader Ajay Maken to demand that retailers in local markets be also allowed to open their shops.

States like Himachal Pradesh and Kerala have allowed stationery and electronic repair shops to open during certain days of the week.

As a large number of activities will start from Monday, state governments have issued instructions for enforcing the lockdown in the containment zones strictly. “We will double the enhancement measures in the containment areas,” Yediyurappa said.

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