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Bengal announces relaxations for standalone shops, bus services; flags dilution concerns

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Kolkata, May 04: The West Bengal government on Monday announced a host of relaxations including plying of private buses with a maximum of 20 passengers each and allowing standalone shops to open, but expressed apprehension that these measures could lead to dilution of the lockdown which is in its third phase.

Mamata Banerjee

Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said private buses can ply intra-district in green zones with not more than 20 passengers, while standalone shops will be allowed to open in all zones barring the ones under containment.

Announcing relaxations in various zones across the state, he said though the Centre has extended the lockdown by two more weeks till May 17, it has given liberty to state governments to allow certain activities by assessing the ground situation.

Bengal to decide on lockdown relaxations in green, orange zonesBengal to decide on lockdown relaxations in green, orange zones

"We are of the opinion that these relaxations announced by the Union government will dilute the lockdown, but we would abide by it... We want a balance between life and livelihood," Sinha said.

"The state government feels activities which the central government has asked to recommence will be beneficial for the economy and wages can be paid to workers and employees, but the way the relaxations are being given it is diluting the lockdown," he said.

Sinha said shops which are not situated within malls or market complexes will be considered as standalone and they will be allowed to open from 10 am to 6 pm.

"Neighbourhood shops, sweetmeat shops, those selling beetle leaves and tea can open but people will have to carry the tea back home for consumption," he said.

The top state bureaucrat urged private bus operators with inter-district permits to apply for appropriate route permits.

Sinha also said mining activities will resume in the green and orange zones. "Construction activities in rural areas will start, while in urban areas, 'in situ' construction work will be allowed where the workers are put up at the site, but for this prior permission of district magistrates and that of Kolkata Municipal Commissioner in the metropolis will be required," he said.

The chief secretary said private offices outside containment zones will be allowed to operate from 10 am to 6 pm with 25 per cent staff strength.

He, however, said the state government does not encourage reopening of private offices in the present scenario if the work can be done from home. Sinha said office cars will be allowed to ply with two passengers and the driver with valid passes.

"If all these guidelines are not followed, the administration will be constrained to take legal action under the Disaster Management Act," he added.

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