Curfew imposed across Punjab over coronavirus; only specific exemptions

Govt sanctions Rs 20 cr for free food, shelter and medicines; bill, tax payments deferred

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23

With people not following the lockdown orders in Punjab ‘properly’, the state government has imposed a curfew till March 31. 

Even as he appealed to the people to voluntarily adhere to the curfew imposed to tackle the prevailing coronavirus outbreak, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday warned of strict action against any violation of the curfew imposed “in the larger interest of the state”.

In a video message address to the people of Punjab, the chief minister said he was forced to take this extreme step “in the interest of the state, and in the interest of all of you”, as he had received reports that people were moving around normally in towns, mohallas and cities despite the lockdown that became effective this morning.

A Punjab government spokesperson said, “After reviewing the situation with the Chief Secretary and DGP, the CM has announced full curfew with no relaxations. The DCs have been asked to issue orders accordingly. Any person required to be given relaxation will be so allowed specifically for a given period and purpose.”

Punjab is the first state to pass such orders. The stringent orders were necessitated with fears that the virus may infect many people after reports said some persons contracted the infection at Hola Mohalla celebrations in Anandpur Sahib earlier this month, despite directions against holding such gatherings.

A top government functionary said curfew was the only means to keep people indoors.

Senior officials in the government said there was a complete ban on movement, which came into effect immediately. Deputy commissioners in each district had been authorised to issue passes, which would be time specific and destination specific. Only those with the passes would be allowed to move around.

Even for essential services, including doctors, chemists, and daily goods shops, it was mandatory to apply for permission, and only thereafter could they run their operations.

RELIEF MEASURES

The Chief Minister announced relief measures to support the affected people as a result of the restrictions. These included free food, shelter and medicines for those in need, with Rs 20 cr sanctioned out of the CM’s Relief Fund and  DCs and SDMs asked to extend assistance to those in need. The Chief Minister also announced deferment of payment of electricity, sewerage and water bills in the state.

The government had earlier initiated legal action against violators of home quarantine. “All measures being taken are for the larger good of everyone. While I am happy that everyone is cooperating, I will not let a few threaten the safety measures being taken against Covid,” the Chief Minister earlier tweeted.

Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh said the amnesty scheme on property tax had been extended till May 31, 2020. The date for payment of all those domestic, commercial and small power industrial consumers having monthly/bimonthly electricity bills upto Rs 10,000, which falls on or after March 20, has been extended up to April 15, 2020. The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has been asked not to recover the late payment surcharge from these nearly 35 lakh consumers.

The Transport Department will extend the due date of all taxes under the Punjab Motor Vehicle Taxation Act by one month up to April 30, 2020. Stage and contract carriage vehicles would be given 100% exemption from the Motor Vehicle Tax for the period in which these are not allowed to ply.

For the farmers, the Cooperation Department has decided to waive for two months (March-April 2020) penal interest on their crop, which is obtained by them from Central Coop Banks & Primary Agriculture Co-op Societies. These farmers can now repay their crop loans till April 30, 2020.

The Social Security Department will release pensions amounting to Rs 150 crore for the month of March 2020 immediately. The government has already released social security pensions to the individual accounts of all beneficiaries up to February 2020.

The Labour Department has already decided to provide assistance of Rs 3,000 to the 3,18,000 registered construction workers through DBT in their bank accounts.

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