Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday directed the state DGP to strictly enforce the weekend lockdown and deal stringently with any violation, ahead of farmers” proposed protest against it.
The chief minister authorised the deputy commissioners to impose new and harsher restrictions, as needed, but made it clear that no dilution of the existing curbs will be allowed.
On the farmers’ unions protest against the lockdown, Amarinder Singh asserted that the Kisan Morcha, a body of 32 farmers unions, cannot dictate terms to the state government.
Thirty-two farmer unions from Punjab, which have been agitating against central farm laws, had on Wednesday said they will hold street protests against the coronavirus lockdown on May 8 and urged people to defy the restrictions.
Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border protest site near Delhi, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal alleged the government has imposed a lockdown to hide its failure in handling the coronavirus situation and wants to weaken the farmers’ movement.
“The 32 farmer unions of Punjab have decided to protest against the lockdown on May 8 (in Punjab) where our field workers will come out on streets and ask people to open their shops and not follow the lockdown,” he had said.
Like several other states reeling from the COVID surge, Punjab has imposed extensive curbs, in addition to measures like a weekend lockdown and night curfew till May 15.
Amarinder Singh said if any shops are opened in violation of the restrictions, the owners will be prosecuted.
The Chief Minister authorised the DCs to take any decision on opening of non-essential shops or private officers on rotation, after taking the local MLAs and other stakeholders into confidence.
However, the DCs cannot impose any restrictions on inter-district movement, he said, underlining the need to allow free flow of people and goods on the highway network of the state.
The new curbs, if any, and the opening of shops on rotation will come into effect from Monday, he said.
Responding to DGP Dinkar Gupta’s remarks that various districts wanted to adopt different models for phased opening of shops, the chief minister said the decision on working out the local systems rests with the DCs.
Taking serious note of the spike in cases in the Malwa region of the state, the chief ministers asked Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to examine the possibility of re-employing the volunteers deployed last year and also to get rapid antigen tests done on all residents in the villages.
He stressed the need to control the fatality rate, which was 2.1 per cent as of May 6.