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Punjab imposes curfew with no relaxations (Ld)

Chandigarh, March 23 (IANS) A day after putting the state under lockdown in the wake of coronavirus cases spiking to 21, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced a statewide curfew with no relaxations.

Officials told IANS a decision in this regard came as people were not adhering to lockdown rules, making Punjab the first state in the country to resort to this extreme and exceptional measure in the battle against COVID-19.

The Chief Minister, after reviewing the situation with Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta, announced “full curfew with no relaxations”.

“The Deputy Commissioners (DCs) have been asked to issue orders accordingly. Any person required to be given relaxation will be so allowed specifically for given period and purpose,” the Chief Minister tweeted.

The orders came even Amarinder Singh announced a slew of relief measures to support the affected people as a result of the unprecedented restrictions imposed in the light of the growing coronavirus menace.

These included free food, shelter and medicines for those in need, with Rs 20 crore sanctioned out of the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for the epidemic and the DCs asked to extend all assistance to those in need.

The Chief Minister has also announced deferment of payment of electricity, sewerage and water bills in the state.

As part of the unprecedented measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the state 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.

Giving details of the relief measures announced by the state government, the Chief Secretary said the Chief Minister has directed the Local Government Department to defer the due date of making payment of water and sewerage bills by one month in all municipal corporations and councils, besides extending the amnesty scheme on property tax till May 31.

Likewise, the due date for payment of all those domestic, commercial and small power industrial consumers having monthly and bimonthly electricity bills up to Rs 10,000, which falls on or after March 20 has been extended till April 15.

Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has been asked not to recover the late payment surcharge from these nearly 35 lakh consumers who would benefit from the move.

Extending a helping hand to the farmers in this hour of crisis, the Cooperation Department has decided to waive off for two months i.e. March and April penal interest on their crop, which is obtained by them from central cooperative banks and primary agriculture cooperative societies.

Consequent upon this decision, the farmers can now repay their crop loans till April 30.

To further mitigate the hardships of disadvantaged sections of society, the Chief Minister has also ordered the Social Security Department to release pensions amounting to Rs 150 crore for March immediately.

Notably, the Punjab government has already released social security pensions to the individual accounts of all beneficiaries up to February, for which Rs 296 crore was released on March 21.




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