Over 80 per cent wheat crop harvested: Home ministry


Over 80 per cent of the wheat crop has been harvested in the country and a majority of “mandis” are operational now, a senior government official said on Monday.

Punya Salila Srivastava, a joint secretary in the Union home ministry, told reporters that over two crore people got employment in water conservation and irrigation works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the country till now.

While 80 per cent of the wheat crop has been harvested, about 2,000 or 80 per cent of the major “mandis” (wholesale markets) are operational in the country now, she said.

Srivastava said this during a press briefing on the measures taken to enforce the ongoing lockdown, which was imposed with the aim to break the chain of Covid-19 in the country.

According to a survey conducted, about 60 per cent food-processing units are operational in the country, she said, adding that besides, 2,825 units and about 350 export-oriented units are also functional in the special economic zones (SEZs) now.

Construction activity, brick kilns and road projects have started in rural areas and hence, local and migrant labourers are getting work again, the officer said.

Talking about the activities that have been allowed by the government to ensure essential supplies and that works go on during the ongoing lockdown, Srivastava said the procurement of pulses and oil seeds is going on.

She said the “Kisan Rath” mobile application has eased selling and purchasing between farmers and traders during the lockdown as over 80,000 farmers and 70,000 traders are registered on the app.

“It is important that we keep all caution while doing these activities and follow the social-distancing, wearing-of-mask norms, hygiene and health protocols,” Srivastava said.

She also briefed the reporters about the work and recommendations made by the inter-ministerial central teams (IMCTs) that were sent to some of the worst coronavirus-hit places in the country such as Pune (Maharashtra) and Jaipur (Rajasthan).

Srivastava said the local administration in these two districts is working diligently to combat the Covid-19 situation and underlined that in Pune, the second-largest city in Maharashtra after Mumbai, the doubling rate of the infection is a cause of concern.

In Pune, the central team toured the containment zones of Pimpri-Chinchwad, Kharadwadi and Baramati, apart from shelter camps for migrant labourers, vegetable markets, PDS shops, the municipal corporation control room and hospitals.

It found that in Pune, the Covid-19 doubling rate is seven days, which is slightly higher compared to the rest of the country, Srivastava said.

While the country’s average is one positive coronavirus case among 23 samples, in Pune, it is nine samples, she added.

The team suggested that high-risk people should be identified quickly and surveillance, testing and contact-tracing should be increased, Srivastava said.

In slums, markets and other places where social-distancing norms are not being followed properly, protocols need to be enforced strictly, she added.

Instead of home-quarantine, institutional-quarantine is essential in slums, Srivastava said, citing the IMCT recommendations for Pune.

Doctors, paramedics, police personnel, vegetable vendors and other essential services-providing shopkeepers have been found to be Covid-19 positive in Pune and it is a matter of concern as they come in contact with many people every day, she said.

The IMCT suggested that it should be ensured that protocols are followed strictly by the frontline workers so that they do not contract the virus and become its carriers in the course of their duty.

Srivastava said the team also held a discussion through video-conferencing with the chief minister and other senior officials of Maharashtra.

In Jaipur, she said, the central team that was headed by an additional secretary-rank officer and had health and disaster management experts, went to hospitals, quarantine centres, containment zones and relief camps for labourers.

The team met the chief secretary of Rajasthan and other officials, and suggested that strict steps should be taken so that the lockdown is not violated in the walled city during the evening hours.

The team suggested that ration and other supplies should be more systematic, quarantine camps should be taken away from residential areas and asked state government authorities to increase the speed of test results.

It also suggested that non-Covid-19 hospitals should be identified so that people are able to get other healthcare facilities, Srivastava said.

“The IMCTs found out that the local administration in both districts (Pune and Jaipur) is working with dedication and with these suggestions, they will be able to better the situation,” she added.

The Covid-19 chain can only broken when the lockdown rules are followed diligently and for this, it is important that the state governments take strong action against lockdown violations, Srivastava said.

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About the author: Sohom Das
Founder of Tuccho.

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