Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 13 urging him to declare the pandemic as a “natural calamity” under the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to be able to provide financial help to the worst effected in this second wave of the pandemic.
In his letter suggesting various measures to be undertaken in view of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Maharashtra and other states, the CM said that a mini-lockdown had become inevitable as the COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the state. In this situation, people needed help, monetary or otherwise.
Therefore, he asked the PM to notify the pandemic as a natural calamity under the SDRF. As a consequence, the state can pay Gratuitous Relief of ₹ 100 per adult per day and ₹ 60 per child per day during lockdown to all AYY (Antodaya Anna Yojana) and Priority Household (PHH) ration card-holders, wrote Thackery, ANI reported. These are the people whose livelihoods will be most affected in a lockdown.
Keeping all this in mind, Thackeray suggested that the PM should release the first instalment of the Centre’s share of the SDRF funds for Maharashtra state to “tide over the financial situation”.
Thackeray also recommended that banks should defer installments due at least in first quarter of current financial year and make them interest free and to extend the time for small and medium taxpayers to submit March-April GST returns.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra is facing an acute shortage of hospital beds and there are not enough life-saving medical equipment across the state. The state has recorded nearly 60,000 new cases on April 14 and more than 50,000 cases per day for the past week. Besides the rising cases, the state has been hit by new virulent strains and shortage of vaccines.
In this situation, it is likely, said news reports that Thackeray may have to go in for a full lockdown. In fact, the CM had said on Tuesday warning people that the war had begun, “… bread and butter is important but saving lives is important too”.