NEW DELHI : The Centre on Monday asked states to strictly ensure that the lockdown is executed smoothly across the country.

While states have shut down inter-state traffic, except carriers of essential commodities and sealed intra-city transport services, all private vehicles and citizens not engaged in essential services have been strictly asked to stay indoors.

“The government has told all states to carry this out. Any person or entity found violating the lockdown will be penalised, unless they are going to the hospital or to purchase essential products. Citizens must cooperate with us on this because the spread of the virus must be contained at this stage," said a senior Union home ministry official.

In the national capital however, with Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses operating at 25% of their capacity, speaking to Mint, those deployed on government duties and essential services said that the move was proving to be counter-productive, with scores of people taking a single vehicle.

Speaking to Mint, a Municipal sweeper said, “each hour there is one bus. The bus is packed with about 150 odd people. We have to come to do our jobs and have not been asked by authorities to stay away. So, we have no other option but to take that crowded bus."

At the same time, the Centre has also issued strict guidelines to be executed across states, with an order by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to stay away from “spreading misinformation on social media platforms." The government has also stated that those found violating the same, will be liable to be penalised under the Information Technology Act.

Last week, just ahead of the Janata Curfew on Sunday and the lockdown which was imposed from today morning, the Centre also invoked the Epidemic Act 1897, to provide for prevention of the spread of “dangerous epidemic diseases."

In a high-level meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba with representatives of the Indian Army, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and other ministries and paramilitary forces, states and union territories have been advised to invoke the provisions of the act, which also lays down regulations for “dangerous epidemic diseases."

On Sunday evening, in a notification issued by the Centre, as many as 75 key districts which have detected cases of COVID-19 have been placed under lockdown. For now, the states and Union territories which have been placed under a partial or complete lockdown include Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

While all passenger trains have been halted, inter-state movement has now been restricted to vehicles rendering essential services and private vehicles going to the airport (until domestic flight closure orders), the Centre’s Department of Personnel and Training has also issued orders asking heads of departments in the government to draw up a roster from 23 to 31 March to enable only those employees rendering essential services, to operate from office.

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