After chairing a meeting of trade and industry representatives at Nabanna, the state secretariat, on Thursday evening, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her government is exploring the option of granting a partial relaxation to the transport sector and allowing some industries to operate with a small workforce. While she said that state government will support Centre's decision on lockdown extension after April 14, she added that she may ease some restriction for the welfare of her state amid coronavirus outbreak.
After a meeting with trade and industry representatives, Banerjee said the state government is contemplating the idea of minimal transportation like giving a go-ahead to taxis to hit the streets again, but carrying not more than four persons, including the driver. "We have already allowed home delivery of food and other goods. Some kind of transportation is needed (for the movement of various goods) but not in a mass manner. "But whatever we do, it has to be done honouring the lockdown for the sake of human lives," she said.
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The state government is also thinking of allowing certain industries to operate with a small number of workers inside factories. She urged corporates and industry bodies to support the markets in various parts of the city in maintaining social distancing and provide hand sanitiser to the people visiting those areas. She also assured the industry representatives that the deadline for government licenses will be extended from March 31 to June 30. "The process of obtaining such licenses will also be made online," the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo said.
Regarding the tea industry, she said her government has decided to allow the tea gardens to reopen initially with a 15-per cent workforce, as it is required to prune the bushes, which have grown old due to the closure. On the financial relief measures sought by certain sections of the industry, Banerjee said, "Our hands are tied. We have to repay a large amount every year towards central government loans. It is not possible to give any concession like relief on electricity duty." Such concessions can only be provided by the Centre, she added.
CM Banerjee said here on Thursday said that twelve more people tested positive for COVID-19 in West Bengal, taking the total number of active cases in the state to 80. She said that three persons were discharged from the hospital following recovery.
"Till yesterday, the number of active cases stood at 71. Today, three persons were released, but 12 fresh cases were reported. The total number of active cases now stands at 80 in Bengal," Banerjee said. Among the 12 are a health worker and the medical superintendent-cum-vice principal (MSVP) of a state-run hospital in Howrah, the chief minister said.
(with PTI inputs)