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New Delhi: In what can spark off further speculation about exemptions during probable extension of the ongoing nationwide shutdown, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Friday that he has asked all states to keep a plan ready to start MGNREGA work from April 15, if the situation allows.

"All states have been asked to keep a work plan ready, so that MGNREGA work can be started in all districts, from April 15, if the situation allows us to," said Tomar during a video interaction with reporters.

India's current shutdown ends on April 14 and it was speculated that PM Modi may extend it further. But Tomar's statement adds a new dimension to it.

He also conceded that a fair share of perishable goods like flowers and fruits have been damaged due to shutdown announcements. However, he added that only respective state governments can quantify the loss.

Read: COVID-19 Battle: Govt Announces Rs 15,000 Crore Package To Ramp Up Health Infra

The farm minister added that harvesting has not been hit due to the shutdown. He argued that keeping in view the harvesting and sowing season, the Centre exempted farming operations by farmers and farm workers in the field, ‘Mandis' to operate by the Agriculture Produce Market Committee, shops for seeds, fertilisers and pesticides among others.

However, the lockdown has affected the sector deeply. Procurement of wheat has been delayed in most of the wheat procuring states. Now, it is likely to commence from April 15-20. The horticulture industry too has taken a bad hit.

Though Tomar, during the video conference, highlighted the relief package under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor in this hour of crisis, but the fact remains the financial assistance proved to be too little for them.

The current nationwide shutdown was enforced to contain the spread of the coronavirus in India which has so far infected 6,761 people here.

(With Agency Inputs)

Also Read: MGNREGA Dues To Be Cleared By April 10; Centre Releases Rs 4,431 Crore Pending Wages

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