While Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the 21-day nationwide curfew, and the Centre allocated Rs 15,000 crore to the healthcare sector on Tuesday, the Southern state of Kerala has been several steps ahead in the fight against COVID-19. The state has remained under a lockdown from Monday itself and Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government, on March 19, had announced a revival package worth Rs 20,000 crore.
Considering the acute shortage of the PPEs and other medical equipment across the country, the fund allocation by the Centre is inadequate.
Distribution of Social security and welfare pensions in Kerala
The revival package aims at easing the life of the people as the prevailing crisis has taken a toll on the economy of the state. As part of this package, the government plans to distribute two months’ social security pensions in advance.
"All social security pensioners in the state will get two months’ pension in March with an advance amount for April; the state government has earmarked Rs 1,320 crore. Another Rs 500 crore has been provided to the Health Department to fight Covid-19. Bills worth around Rs 14,000 crore and dues are pending with the government. All bills and dues will be released in April," said Pinarayi Vijayan.
On Wednesday, the chief minister said that the distribution of all the pensions will start from March 27. A total of Rs 1,069 crore will be distributed as social security pensions for the beneficiaries. Welfare pensions worth Rs 149 crore will also be distributed from this date. Around 54 lakh people will get their pension in this manner.
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State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac told a news channel on Tuesday evening that apart from the aforementioned plan for distribution, all the social security pensions for the next six months will also be distributed before Vishu, which falls on April 14. The finance minister had earlier made it clear that these steps will help ensure the cash flow in the state.
The government also plans to offer loans worth Rs 2,000 crore through Kudumbashree. "The pandemic has destabilised our public life and business community. So, the government will offer Rs 2,000 crore loans through Kudumbashree Mission to the families on soft interest. Under Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, another Rs 2,000 crore would be dispersed in April-May," Vijayan announced.
Shelter Homes for the Homeless
The lockdown is expected to affect the marginalised sections of the society the most. On Tuesday, in a press conference, the chief minister said “Special attention should be given to the elderly, homeless, specially-abled in the state; the local self-government institutions should take efforts to arrange food and shelter for the needy. Apart from medicines, those in isolation would also be given counselling if required."
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With the help of local self-governments, the state plans to arrange shelter homes for the people who are living on the streets. “In some places, there are many who don’t have their own place to sleep. Some rest in front of the shops or on the streets. Such people will be identified by the LSGs and necessary steps will be taken to provide them with accommodation and food,” the CM said on Tuesday.
Free food grains for all
Along with the BPL card \\holders, who have been getting 35 kilogram of rice every month, the government plans to give 15 kg rice to all other cardholders. Though the Cabinet has taken a decision on this matter on Wednesday morning, it is yet to be announced officially. Reports also say that the government plans to distribute a kit containing essential groceries to the BPL card holders.
The people who are under observation will also continue to get rice and essential groceries along with medicines.
Update from the state
With coronavirus cases rapidly increasing, Kerala has crossed the ‘one hundred’ mark with 14 new cases reported on Tuesday, taking the total number of people undergoing treatment to 105.
A health worker was among those infected by the virus, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters on Tuesday after a COVID-19 review meeting.
The Chief Minister said that the situation in the northernmost Kasaragod district was worrisome as six more positive cases were detected. Three cases are detected in Kozhikode, one each in Malappuram, Palakkad, Kottayam, Ernakulam, and Alappuzha districts, he said.
At least 72,460 people have been under observation besides 467 in isolation wards of various hospitals, the chief minister said.
Four patients who tested positive have been treated and discharged alread--three from Wuhan and one from Kannur. Thrissur district has the most number of people under observation, 10,908, followed by Malappuram with 9,898.
The worst-hit Kasaragod district with 45 positive COVID-19 cases has 2,736 people under observation, of which 85 are in isolation wards.
Even though the lockdown was imposed from Monday midnight, people were not cooperating and many were seen moving around in their private vehicles, he said. Vijayan asked people not to travel, unless in case of an emergency.
“Today (Tuesday) is the first day of lockdown in the state. This is a first in the state. We need to understand the seriousness of the matter. But many people were wandering around unnecessarily… It seems like people are not interested in following the directions. Many ventured out today,” he said.
Those who come out in their private vehicles should submit an affidavit explaining the purpose of travel and other details. “The permission for private vehicles is for emergency purposes only. People are considering it as an opportunity.”
“We have decided to gather details of such vehicles, name and address of the driver, the purpose of travel, destination and time of return in an affidavit format,” he said.
Those who give false information will be caught and legal action will be taken, he added. Vijayan also warned traders who “exploit the situation” and increase prices of essential commodities and said regular inspections will take place and violators will be booked.
With the possibility of more cases surfacing, the state government has issued directions to legislators in the state to identify the buildings or houses which could be used as isolation wards in future.
Meanwhile, prohibitory orders have been issued in at least seven districts, including Thiruvananthapuram, Pathnamthitta and Ernakulam.
402 cases against those who violated the lockdown
At least 402 cases have been registered in Kerala on Tuesday against those who violated the lockdown. The highest number of cases  were registered in Thiruvananthapuram district followed by Kollam  and Ernakulam , sources said.
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(With inputs from PTI)