80% of the leaders from various political parties, who interacted with the Prime Minister through video-conferencing, favoured extending the lockdown.

The Home Ministry has sought views of State governments on the 21-day lockdown including whether more categories of people and services need to be exempted, officials said on Friday, amidst indications of a possible two-week extension of the restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

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In its communication, the Home Ministry informed the State governments and Union Territory administrations about the steps taken by the Centre for the strict implementation of the lockdown, announced on March 24.

It also conveyed them about the people and services exempted from the purview of the lockdown.

The Home Ministry asked the State governments and UT administrations to inform it about different aspects of the lockdown and whether there are necessities to give exemptions to some more categories of people and services from the restrictions, a home ministry official said.

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A few state governments, including Bihar, wrote back to the home ministry.

Among the suggestions of the State governments include allowing construction-related activities in rural areas.

The central government, while imposing the lockdown, had announced that shops dealing in essential commodities, including the online platforms, will remain open, besides services like health, sanitation, police, media and bank.

The Home Ministry had also asked States and Union Territories to ensure smooth harvesting and sowing operations, saying agricultural activities were exempted from the lockdown.

It also allowed opening of shops of agriculture machinery, its spare parts, highway truck repair shops, preferably in petrol pumps, tea industry, including plantation with maximum of 50 per cent workers, during the lockdown period.

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Movements of essential and non-essential cargos were also allowed by the government.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with leaders of opposition political parties earlier this week, LoP in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad had said the Prime Minister told the meeting that he had received several requests for extension of the lockdown, but will take a call on it only after consulting experts and the chief ministers of various states.

Mr. Azad had said around 80% of the leaders from various political parties, who interacted with the Prime Minister through video-conferencing, favoured extending the lockdown.

‘Don’t allow religious gatherings, processions’

In view of the ensuing festivals, the Centre asked the States and Union Territories to strictly adhere to the ongoing 21-day lockdown and not allow any social or religious gathering and procession.

In a communication, the Union Home Ministry also said that appropriate vigil on social media should be maintained against circulation of any objectionable content.

In view of the ensuing festivals in the month of April, the home ministry has directed all states and union territories to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures to fight COVID-19 and not allow any social, religious gathering or procession, an official statement said.

While Shab-e-Barat was on Thursday, today is Good Friday. Baisakhi, Rongali Bihu, Vishu, Poila Boishakh, Puthandu, Maha Vishuba Sankranti etc., are also in April.

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