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On March 24, 2020, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) directed the central and state governments, as well as various State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to take measures to ensure social distancing for 21 days (with effect from March 25, 2020). These measures were issued under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The Act providescertain powers to these authorities for the effective management of disasters.

The Union Home Secretary issued guidelines to all states and union territories on the enforcement of the21-day lockdown. During the lockdown, all establishments, other than those selling or producing essential goods or providing essential services, and activities related to agricultural operations were closed. Essential goods include items such as food, medicine, and electricity. Essential services include banking services, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals. Transportation of all goods (whether essential or non-essential) continued to remain functional. 

Further, certain bodies, such as the district administration, police, and defence services were allowed to operate. The Union Home Secretary also directed all state/union territory governments, as well as various State/Union Territory Disaster Management Authorities to issue orders to their District Magistrates or Deputy Commissioners, and Senior Superintendent of Police (SP), SP, or Deputy SP to:

(i) ensure adequate arrangements of temporary shelter and food for the needy, including stranded migrant workers, 

(ii) relocate migrant workers who have moved out to reach their home town, to the nearest shelter home, and to quarantine them for at least 14 days, and (iii) direct employers to pay wages during the lockdown, and to ensure landlords do not demand rent from workers for one month.