Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today announced free of cost distribution of food grains to over seven crore population of Bengal for the next six months in a bid to combat the Coronavirus crisis. “The state government will provide five kg of rice and wheat per month to 7.85 crore people free of cost till September.

Currently, these food grains are provided at Rs two per kg from ration shops,” said Miss Banerjee at a Press Conference in Nabanna. This apart, the state government will provide an additional two kg rice to the houses of the children under ICDS and Mid Day Meal scheme, she added.

To avoid spreading of the virus, Miss Banerjee announced reducing the attendance in government offices to 50 per cent. She said that 50 per cent of the government employees would work in the first week and the remaining 50 per cent would work in the next week till 31 March. Work would now be held in e-office system and employees would be able to work from home.

The departments would prepare the roster; accordingly, she added. The state government has already reduced the duration in government offices, and employees leave at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. to avoid overcrowding in public transport. Miss Banerjee urged the private sector to reduce attendance by 50 per cent.

“Centre has issued an advisory to the private sector, but it is difficult to close down all units together. I can suggest the private firms bring 50 per cent of their employees to office in one week and remaining employees the next week,” she said.

Miss Banerjee announced setting up a State Emergency Relief Fund on Monday and people who are willing can assist. “We need to create a huge infrastructure for tackling this disease. Till now we did not get any assistance from the Centre,” she said.

Expressing her gratitude to the doctors, nurses, health workers and police personnel who have put their lives at risk to serve the people during this period, Miss Banerjee announced an incentive of “special leaves” after the Durga Puja.

Miss Banerjee yet again issued a strong message against hoarding of food grains and essential commodities. “There is no food scarcity in our state, so the question of shortage does not arise. If there is any hoarding, then the police would take action against those hoarders,” she added.

Chief minister advised people to maintain social distancing measures, refrain from eating salads and raw vegetables and fight the disease bravely.

Bar council issues dictum on judicial activity till 30 March:

In a meeting held today, the state’s Bar Council decided that the advocates in the state and Andaman and Nicrobar Islands will not participate in judicial proceedings till 30 March to prevent outbreak of coronavirus among the litigants and counsel.

The council will convene a meeting on 31 March to review the prevailing situation. The decision came, following a 19 March notification of Registrar General, Calcutta High Court, it was stated.

The notification stated that there shall be at all entry points-Gate “A”, “B”, and “E” of the main building and also at the Centenary and the Sesquicentenary buildings of the court-thermal guns to check the temparature of every entrant, from doctors working in the medical unit of the court or appropriate personnel at gates to the Hon’ble judges and the lawyers’ staff or litigants.

If someone is found to have a fever, immediate allied actions shall be taken by the doctors stationed at such points including restricting of entry. The Registrar General shall write to the state government to increase the strength of the doctors and to provide thermal guns in ample numbers.

Request for similar measures has been made to the state government for all district and sub-divisional courts. The cause list will be published for only those matters which are urgent in nature, mentioned before the respective Benches for listing.

The presence of staff for all courts in the state shall be reduced by at least half and the office shall ensure that the staff works in rotation. The courts should not insist on the presence of parties, unless it is unavoidable. Appropriate measures be taken to regulate the entry of the litigants and the general public, it was stated.

The president and secretary of the three wings of the Bar of the High Court and the president and general secretary of the respective district court Bar Associations are requested to issue necessary directions to ensure that there is no crowding at the court complex including the lawyers’ chambers. The hon’ble judges and lawyers would also ensure that interns are barred from the court complex till the present situation persists.

All Bar rooms are requested to be closed except for the purpose of the lawyers to access their belongings. The lawyers may advice their clients to abstain from visiting the court unless their presence is directed by the court or unavoidable. Till the present situation presists, no adverse or default orders be passed in matters where parties are found to be absent.

Instead of physical presence of undertrial prisoners from jails, facility of video conferencing be exerted. Registry for the high court and the district judges for subordinate court shall ensure sanitizers are available in all court rooms, departments and also for the respective court complexes for the visitors as well as the staff.

Housekeeping staff be asked to ensure that the highest level of hygiene is maintained in the court complex and disinfectants are sprayed on a regular basis. All activities in the judicial academy be postpond from 16 March till further orders.

All hon’ble judges may leave the court complex and release the staff as early as possible. Absence of staff on a particular day because of this advisory, shall be treated as “on duty”.