Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray today hinted at further extension of the lockdown after May 31 and proposed restrictions on plans to resume domestic flights from May 25 as the Covid-19 situation could worsen after the onset of monsoon.
Addressing the state, he said it was not proper to impose the lockdown suddenly and now it couldn't be lifted abruptly as it would be detrimental to the people.
"We will have to study the situation carefully before moving ahead, every step will be taken cautiously to bring back life to normal. The coming weeks are critical as the spread of coronavirus is increasing. People must exercise extreme precautions during monsoon," Thackeray said.
Hours after state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh red-flagged the Centre's plans to resume domestic flights from tomorrow, Thackeray spoke to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri on the issue.
"The Chief Minister has communicated that till Mumbai International Airport plans and fine-tunes airport operations, they [Centre] should initiate minimum possible domestic flights from Maharashtra from Monday. These should be purely emergent in nature, like for international transfer passengers, medical emergencies, students and cases on compassionate grounds," said an official from the CMO.
Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik later said that the state government is likely to permit around 25 flights daily including cargo services.
Taking a swipe at the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's recent 'Maharashtra bachao' agitation, Thackeray said they should not indulge in politics in this crisis before the state.
"Even if you play politics, we will not. We have the responsibility of the state and the peoples' faith. We will continue to work for the people," he said.
Thanking the Centre for agreeing to the state's demand to provide food-grains to even those who don't have ration cards, he pointed out that lakhs of Shiv Bhojan Thalis are being served to the people at Rs 5 per plate.
Besides, around six lakhs laborers from other states are being provided breakfast and two meals at shelter homes, he added.
"They are not a burden on us but they wanted to go home, and after getting sanction, nearly seven lakhs have been sent by 481 special trains. We have taken such good care of them that they chant 'Jai Maharashtra' while leaving," said Thackeray.
"Whether the Centre will pay the 85 per cent cost of tickets for these laborers or delays it, we have already paid for it fully, around Rs 85 crore so far. We have demanded 80 trains daily, but we are getting around 30-40 trains for sending the migrants back," he pointed out.
In addition to the departures by trains, more than 3.80 lakh migrants have been sent by 32,000 buses to the state borders or railway stations at a cost of Rs 75 crore.
The CM said over 50,000 industries have resumed operations with more than six lakh employees returning to work in the Green Zones, and now efforts are on to allow shooting of films and television serials besides opening up cinemas in Green Zones.
Thackeray said the next battle would be more serious with patients likely to increase, but people must not panic as the health services are all geared to tackle it.
By May-end, 14,000 beds with ICU-Oxygen facilities are coming up in Mumbai and all over the state, several lakhs of beds are being readied for Covid-19 patients.
Reassuring the farming community which is now busy with the ensuing Kharif season, Thackeray said that in a new experiment, seeds and fertilizers would be provided to the peasants at their farms.
He urged the masses to stay away from monsoon diseases, avoid getting drenched in the rains, and take all other Covid-19 precautions in the interest of all..