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New Delhi, April 12, 2020
The government has decided to get the country going once again by allowing 15 industries to commence operations and also allowing trucks, repair services, and street vendors to start work as the exit strategy from the coronavirus lockdown starts to take shape.
A number of large and small scale sectors will be allowed with the mandate to ensure social distancing norms. The proposal comes two days before the lockdown is to end.
An important point made is that all employers whose entities are allowed to operate, may be allowed to ask the labourers to report for duty. If labourers do not report for duty, no salary guarantee without work will be the responsibility of the employer. This needs to be clarified by the Ministry of Labour, the government said.
Industry Secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra has written to Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla making the point that the lockdown has been in place since March 23.
"However, it is felt that certain more activities with reasonable safeguards should be allowed once a final decision on extension and nature of lockdown is taken by the Central government. These new activities are essential to improve economic activity and provide liquidity in the hands of the people," Mohapatra said.
With unemployment concerns mounting, the government is keen to address this issue by allowing industry and economic activity to restart. Compared to the small opening that was being talked about, this is a rather large scale opening up after the lockdown.
Mohapatra has pointed out that the suggestions are on the basis of detailed discussions held by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal with states and industry associations. The recommendations come a day after the video conference held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the states where a two-week extension to the lockdown was unanimously recommended.
The Industry Ministry has given these recommendations to the Home Ministry with a list of 15 industries which should be opened with minimum manpower and distancing norms on a single shift basis.
These include those involved in manufacturing of heavy electrical items like transformers and circuit vehicles, telecom equipment and components including optic fiber cable, compressor and condenser units, steel and ferrous alloy mills, spinning and ginning mills, power looms, defence and defence ancillary units.
Cement plants, however, can run in three shifts as cement production is a continuous process.
Pulp and paper units can resume their production in clusters where COVID-19 cases are low based on the data by the state authorities.
Fertiliser plants, paints and dyes manufacturing, all types of food and beverages, seeds processing units, plastic manufacturing units, automotive units, gems and jewellery sector units, all units in Special Economic Zones and Export Oriented Units have also been exempted from nationwide lockdown measures.
There is no clear thread in the industries and most of these are diverse in nature. The focus seems to be addressing employment, starting economic activity across sectors and putting the onus on industry to ensure social distancing, hygiene and well-being of the workforce.
At the back of the mind are also considerations for the central and state governments to generate revenue through GST and Income Tax as several states have pointed out that while they are distributing rations and providing shelter, revenues have vanished because of the lockdown and cost-cutting will have to be resorted to.
As economic activity starts and salaries start flowing, it will also share the weight on the government's shoulders in terms of providing for the migrant labourers and others.
It has sought free movement of all vehicles and manpower required for continuing the activities permitted so far under various MHA notifications and this has to be allowed by all government authorities concerned with movement of man and material.
Big companies with proper sanitation and distancing norms in place in sectors such as textiles, automobiles and electronic manufacturing (20 per cent to 25 per cent capacity in single shift may be considered to start with).
Companies/MSMEs with export commitments need to be allowed to operate with minimal manpower and necessary movement of material as a new entity.
Housing and construction sectors need to be allowed if the labourers stay at the sites with all facilities and safeguards. Contractors shall ensure safety, sanitation and distancing norms. Although there is not much construction activity, this is a large employment sector.
All transport vehicles of all sizes, whether inter-State, intra-State or intra-city, need to be allowed, whether empty or full, by all enforcement agencies without asking any question, is the recommendation.
It has recommended that all street vendors like fruit and vegetable sellers should be allowed by the States in order to improve doorstep delivery and also to provide much needed liquidity to this population.
Certain repairing units like those individuals or small agencies involved in providing repair services of mobiles, electrical items like refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions etc, plumbing, cobblers, ironing, electrician, automobile mechanics, and cycle repair mechanics should be allowed.
However, these individuals should also carry their ID cards and operate at their stalls or traditional sites. This will help the citizens under lockdown to avail these critical services and also provide them cash liquidity, which is required very much. Also, these services do not lead to any crowding. E-commerce entities providing such repair services may also be allowed.
As timber, plywood and wood based industry provides packaging material to pharma companies, FMCG and other companies producing essential commodities, these should also be allowed by the state authorities.
Glass and foundry industry may be allowed with their minimal manpower to keep the manufacturing in a continuous recycling mode.
Certain rubber items are essential items related to medical/health care and domestic system related manufacturing items, and these may be given priority for starting manufacturing, while keeping in mind the safety, sanitation and distancing norms.