Two states in South India – Kerala and Telangana – have decided to chart their own course in their bid to control the Corona Virus Pandemic. The methods are different, guided by the data emerging on the ground – but what is common is that both Kerala and Telangana are not entirely in sync with the Centre’s position on how to exit the lockdown.
Let us look at Kerala first. Buoyed by a significant flattening of the curve, where just 32 new Corona positive cases have been reported in the last week and 129 patients have been discharged, the LDF government has reopened Kerala in a staggered manner. The state is now divided into four zones – Red, Orange A, Orange B and Green.
Those in the Red Zone include districts in north Kerala – Kasargode, Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram – and will continue to remain under lockdown. Those under Orange A (Ernakulam, Kollam and Pathanamthitta) will see partial relaxation from 24 April while those marked Orange B (Palakkad, Wayanad, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha and Thrissur) have seen partial relief from Monday. While social distancing will be maintained, bus travel for short distances and private vehicles in an odd-even format are being allowed within the district. Even restaurants are being allowed business with reasonable restrictions. Two districts – Idukki and Kottayam – are in the green zone and have seen restrictions lifted from 20 April.
Though the Centre had released its own list of lockdown relaxations that it wanted to come into force through out the country in a uniform way, it is not pleased with Kerala’s decision to open restaurants and allow private vehicles. Accusing the Pinarayi Vijayan government of “diluting guideliness” issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, pointing out that these activities are prohibited in the Centre’s guidelines.
In a letter, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has asked Kerala to “rectify the guidelines” pointing out that allowing barbers, book stores, local workshops, pillion riding on scooters etc amounts to dilution of the Centre’s guidelines.
But if Kerala has earned New Delhi’s ire for relaxing a bit more than what the Centre desires, Telangana has decided to ignore whatever little relaxation the Centre wanted states to do. What’s more, taking into account the schedule of its containment zones, K Chandrasekhar Rao extended the complete lockdown in Telangana till 7 May.
“We won’t die if we do not eat pizza for a few days,” said KCR, making it clear that no marriages will be allowed even after 7 May as his administration will take over marriage halls to store grain.
KCR believes the worst is not yet over and any relaxation in lockdown will nullify the gains made so far. 82 per cent of the corona positive cases in Telangana so far have had a Tablighi Jamaat connection and though the state Health ministry says it has managed to track down every Delhi returnee and his contact, the impression is that the state is not out of the woods yet. Which is why it has decided to postpone resumption of economic activity to May.
The ruling parties in both Kerala and Telangana are sending a message to New Delhi that when it comes to the interests of their states, they know best. What we are seeing is state-specific lockdowns, with KCR even asking people not to fly into Hyderabad even if airlines resume operations.