The Centre has come down heavily on the Kerala government for its decision to allow opening of restaurants, bus travel in cities and opening of MSME industries in urban areas, saying it amounts to dilution of lockdown guidelines and also a Supreme Court observation.
However, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in Kerala said there was some "misunderstanding", due to which the Centre had objected to dilution of the lockdown protocol for controlling coronavirus
In a letter to the Kerala government, the home ministry said the state government on April 17 circulated revised guidelines for lockdown measures which allowed opening of activities which are prohibited in the Centre's consolidated revised guidelines issued on April 15
Such additional activities allowed by the government of Kerala, include opening of local workshops, barber shops, restaurants, book stores, MSMEs in municipal limits, bus travel in cities and towns for shorter distance (upto 60 km), two passengers in the back seat of four wheeler and pillion riding on scooters
In his letter sent on Sunday to Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose, Union?Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also drew his attention to the consolidated revised guidelines issued for the implementation of the lockdown
The guidelines categorically stated that the State and UT governments shall not dilute them in any manner and shall strictly enforce the same
The States and UTs may, however, impose stricter measures than the guidelines as per requirement of local areas
Bhalla also pointed out to the recent Supreme Court observation that all concerned — state governments, public authorities and citizens of this country — will faithfully comply with the directives and orders issued by the Union in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety
The observations, which must be treated as directions of the Apex Court, was conveyed in my letter dated April 1 to all States and UTs, he said
"I would urge you to rectify the guidelines of government of Kerala in line with the consolidated revised guidelines dated April 15 and 16 without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures," the Union home secretary said
Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran denied there was dilution of the lockdown guidelines
"We have given relaxations in accordance with the Centre's guidelines.I think there is some misunderstanding, based on which the Centre has sought an explanation. Once we give an explanation, it will all be sorted out. The Centre and the state have the same stand with regard to fight the pandemic. There is no contradiction in the stand taken. It's just a misunderstanding we will clear it," Surendran told mediapersons in Thiruvananthapuram
The Kerala government has announced relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in two zones, allowing among others private vehicles movement in an odd-even basis and dine-in services at hotels from Monday
Kerala on Sunday reported two positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, taking the total number of affected to 401 while the health department announced that 13 people were cured
The Union home secretary has also sent a letter to all States and UTs asking them to strictly comply with the lockdown measures announced to combat coronavirus and not to dilute them at any level.
In this letter to Chief Secretaries of all state governments and UT administrations, the Union home secretary said?some of the States and UTs are issuing orders allowing activities which have not been allowed as per the guidelines issued by the home ministry under the Disaster Management Act, 2005
"I would again urge you to ensure compliance of the revised consolidated guidelines, and direct all concerned authorities for their strict implementation in letter and spirit without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures," he said
The consolidated revised guidelines on the measures to be taken by the central ministries and departments, State and UT governments was issued on April 15 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced extension of the lockdown till May 3
The lockdown was first announced by the Prime Minister on March 24 in a bid to combat coronavirus.It was further extended till May 3.