India’s food producing, agricultural states will begin harvesting of crops on April 15 even if the ongoing, 21-day lockdown is extended as expected till the end of this month.
This is despite 1,035 new COVID-19 cases being confirmed in India in the previous 24 hours till 6pm local time today, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 7447. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare here said in its daily update this evening that 239 deaths have occurred since the outbreak of infections in India while 642 persons have been cured.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today consulted state chief ministers for four hours to assess the situation countrywide in the fight against the Coronavirus. “The Chief Ministers suggested that the lockdown should be extended by two weeks,” according to a readout of the marathon meeting by the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau.
Modi will announce a final decision in a telecast to the people in a day or two. Meanwhile, several states, including Maharashtra and West Bengal, have gone ahead and announced extensions of the current lockdown by two weeks till the end of April. Legally, in India’s federal structure, states have the power to impose lockdowns and enforce them.
Dushyant Chautala, Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, a major food producing, agricultural state bordering Delhi, told the media that arrangements are being made to start harvesting crops from next Wednesday with full safety plans for farm labourers to guard against COVID-19 infections.
Punjab, a state known as the food bowl of India, and Tamil Nadu have made similar preparations.
India’s Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare said today that “as on 10th April, 2020, the total area under summer crops, including rice, pulses, cereals and oil seeds, has jumped by 1.164 million hectares over last year.”
The Ministry said “the increase is by overcoming the restrictions and social distancing norms witnessed since last month, particularly after the lockdown.” Resumption of agricultural activity is critical because the entire crop could be destroyed or wasted unless they are harvested in time.
Modi emphasised “the criticality of the coming three to four weeks for determining the impact of the steps taken till now to contain the virus, including the unprecedented lockdown.”