In a big development on Wednesday, the Maharashtra government has permitted the printing and distribution of newspapers from April 1, 2020. This decision was taken in a meeting of state Industries Minister Subhash Desai with the newspaper publishers and distributors. Since March 23, the physical copy of the newspapers was not available in many areas including Mumbai amid the novel coronavirus crisis. The categorization of print media as an essential service in the national lockdown guidelines was the main reason for lifting the curbs on printing and distribution of newspapers.
However, several conditions have been imposed. For instance, due consideration will be given to allow the payment of the newspaper bill to be delayed until April 14, the last date of the nationwide lockdown. The newspapers will have to be disinfected and distributed between 3-7 am. Additionally, the newspaper sellers will have to be provided with an identity card, hand sanitisers, and masks. Furthermore, crowding must be avoided at newspaper depots. Out of the 562 confirmed COVID-19 cases in India, Maharashtra has reported 116 cases so far.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown in the country for three weeks. As per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, all offices of the government barring for those providing essential services will remain shut. They will function with minimum number of employees. Hospitals and all medical establishments will be open and the transport of the people working in this field will be permitted. All commercial establishments and private organizations will be closed. The exemptions include print and electronic media, shops selling essential items, e-delivery of food, medical equipment, banks, petrol pumps, etc. The suspension of transport and hospitality services shall continue.
Moreover, legal action can be taken against a person who does not follow the quarantine period prescribed by local health authorities. Incident Commanders appointed by the District Magistrates will be responsible for the overall implementation of these measures in their jurisdictions. An individual violating the containment measures can be proceeded against under Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act and Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.