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NEW DELHI : India is set to further open up its economy once the national lockdown ends on 17 May for which the Centre will announce a strategy based on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with states on Monday.

Modi informed states during his videoconference with chief ministers that the geographical spread of the pandemic in the country has become clear and that the containment efforts will stay the course while economic activities will further pick up in the coming days, a senior home ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

“Slowly but surely, economic activities have begun to pick up in several parts of the country. In the coming days, this process will further gather steam…We must realize that the fight against Covid-19 has to be more focussed now," the official quoted Modi as saying.

States in the meantime urged the Centre to let them borrow more from the market, grant full compensation for Goods and Services Tax (GST) revenue loss and not to make any reduction in their share of Centre’s tax revenues promised at the beginning of the fiscal.

States also sought more flexibility in classifying the areas based on severity of the pandemic there. Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh said in a tweet that he proposed to Modi during the meeting that the Centre should consider empowering states fiscally and economically. “States should have flexibility in micro-planning and the decision on designating red, orange or yellow and green zones should be left to us," said Singh.

Modi told states that the strategy for handling the crisis in the coming days will be based on Monday’s deliberations. He also urged states to ensure that rural India remains free from the pandemic. Although migrants have been allowed to return home, the Centre wants states to aggressively monitor migrants for symptoms of Coronavirus infections at the time of boarding and of disembarkation to prevent the spread.

“Going forward, the road ahead should be focused on reducing the spread and ensuring that all precautions are taken by people including social distancing norms by observing ‘Do Gaj Doori’ Follow-up is of paramount importance-and we must do so to the hilt," the home ministry official mentioned above quoted Modi as saying.

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