Covid-linked lockdown rules relaxed for shrines, offices, malls, hotels from May 30


NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry released on Thursday the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for workplaces, shopping malls, religious places, hotels and restaurants which all could open and function from June 8, except in the containment areas that have been marked out and segregated in view of the Covid virus presence in substantial manner. No public activity of these kinds will be allowed in containment areas.

As per the guidelines, old-age persons from age 65 should continue to remain in their homes and avoid going out. Children below age 10 too should confine themselves to their home; and so are pregnant women. They can go out of their homes on health grounds or for other essential purposes only. It is important that all the above establishment, when open, should maintain the social distancing norms.

While religious places could open and people allowed to offer prayers, they should wear masks, maintain social distance and should not touch the deity, steps, or holy books. Large gatherings should not be held. There should be no offering of prasads or sacred water in shrines.

India remains under lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19 pandemic since March 25, though in recent weeks relaxations of regulations were made in a staggered manner in areas other than hotspots or containment areas, which remain segregated.

The covid infection tally in India reached around 2,17,000 on Thursday, and deaths were a little over 6,000 so far. Major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, etc are on top of the Covid chart.

The SOPs for restaurants said take-home packets system should be resorted to and dine-in facility curtailed. Packets should be kept at the customer’s door. “The staff for home deliveries shall be screened thermally by the restaurant authorities prior to allowing home deliveries. Seating arrangement can be retained in restaurants, but there must be adequate social distancing.  

Not more than 50 per cent of the seating capacity should be utilised. Disposable menus/plates/cups are advised. Cloth napkins may be avoided and paper napkins used and disposed of.  Entrance of eateries must have sanitizer dispensers and thermal screening device ready. –IHN-NN





NEW DELHI: Fugitive Indian businessman, Vijay Mallya’s extradition from UK to this country will again be stalled. While a high court there cleared his return to India a while ago and ruled this week that he will not be allowed to go in appeal to the Supreme Court, reports say the UK authorities will now hold him back. A British diplomat based here was quoted as saying on Thursday that come “confidential” legal matters were still pending with the government before the green signal is given by it for Mallya’s extradition to India. Mallya, on his own, would like to remain in the UK rather than coming here.

Mallya, who owed Indian banks some Rs 9,000crore in loans he had taken from them over a period, left India secretly and perched himself on different locations in the UK, where he has real estate assets. Allegations were also that he took away huge sums from India and parked themin some tax havens abroad. He has been fighting cases in the UK to avoid his extradition to India.

Known as the King of Good Times, Mallya ran his family-owned brewery in Karnataka in great style for years, under the banner of Kingfisher, and later he led an aviation company he founded in the same name, before running into financial problems. Instead of selling his assets and paying back the loans, he took the shortcut to escape from India, bag and baggage, at the nocturnal hour. The Indian crime investigation agency the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate were after him when Mallya gave them the skip.

Sixtyfour-year-old Mallya has strong political connections and served as a Member or Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian Parliament, for a period before he quit India and took refuge in the UK. He was identified with a regional party in Karnataka in south India first and later with the Congress party.

The Congress, led by Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, is seen as being among the most-corrupt political establishments in the country. The regional parties it associated with in alliance governments under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) banner, which ruled two consecutive terms of five year each until 2014, are also known to be hugely corrupt. It was by exploiting the people’s desperation into votes that Modi ousted the UPA and won power for the BJP – a pro-Hindu, nationalist, rightwing political party.

Some other top Indian businessmen, including diamond merchant Nirav Modi, have also found sanctuary abroad after drawing large sums out of India’s public sector banks (PSBs), which are now groaning under the pain of non-performing assets, or bad loans, or loans taken by people who would not repay even as they have the means to do so. Several PSU banks in India, hit by unpaid loan problems, are now in a process of merger to carry on forward with some confidence.

Indian PSBs’ NPAs were of the order of Rs 10lakh crore two years ago, which only saw a marginal decline during the time of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

At the time of the 2014 polls that put Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power, Modi had promised the people through his jet-set campaign jaunts across the nation that he would plough back the huge amounts looted and taken away by businessmen and politicians abroad. As per allegations, these men put the money in safe tax havens. Modi had said he would share such money coming from abroad among the poor of India. He opened bank accounts for the poor, but could not plough back any money so far.

Reason why the government is not able to act against such men is also that they are either fighting their battles through Indian courts, where cases go on and on for decades without final order, or have scooted from the scene. IHN-NN


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