DMK chief Stalin urges TN govt to extend lockdown in state

Chennai: The opposition DMK in Tamil Nadu on Saturday urged the state government to take a cue from Punjab and Odisha and extend the ongoing lockdown enforced in the state to stem the spread of coronavirus till April-end.

DMK President M K Stalin’s demand came on a day when the state cabinet under Chief Minister K Palaniswami is likely to take a call on extending the lockdown.

On Friday, a 19-member expert committee constituted by the state government to advise it of steps to tackle the COVID-19 crisis had recommended that the lockdown be extended by two weeks beyond April 14 considering the rise in number of cases. Tamil Nadu has so far reported 911 positive cases.

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On Saturday, Stalin wrote a letter to Palaniswami, where he wanted the lockdown to be extended beyond April 14.

Though isolation was a key precautionary measure, many states had urged the Centre to extend the lockdown, Stalin pointed out.

“The Chief Ministers of Odisha (Naveen Patnaik) and Punjab (Amarinder Singh) have extended the lockdown till April 30 and May 1, respectively. Therefore, a due decision on this in Tamil Nadu should be taken without further delay,” Stalin, Leader of the Opposition in the state, said in the letter.

He said the lockdown will affect the livelihood of the poor, farmers, labourers and small time traders and urged the government to ensure they did not suffer during this period.

He demanded for a cash assistance of Rs 5,000, besides provision of essentials like rice and pulses to people.

He also wondered why the state government was not convening an all-party meet like Prime Minister Narendra Modi had done to discuss the matter, adding, the outbreak of the virus was not a mere health or medical issue but also a future social, economic, environment and political one.

Stalin also took exception to the state government’s decision to utilise Rs one crore from legislators’ local funds towards fighting COVID-19, saying the monies were being used by them only for “public welfare.”

“It is the MLAs’ moral right. It is not fair on the part of the state government to snatch away that right,” he told the chief minister.

Palaniswami had on Tuesday ordered utilisation of Rs one crore from the MLA Local Area Development Fund of all the 234 legislators towards procuring medical equipment, drugs and for prevention initiatives against the coronavirus across Tamil Nadu.

Among others, Stalin sought for giving incentives to health professionals and field staff such as police since they were actively involved in the fight against coronavirus.

While there were apprehensions of Tamil Nadu slipping into the third stage of the pandemic, the government should ensure it doesn’t happen, he said.

In the event of the state entering the third stage, the government must be prepared to face it, the DMK chief added.

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