The detailed guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the relaxation of lockdown after 20th April are in the right direction and will ensure preventive measures for COVID-19 spread while permitting certain economic activities to be restarted stated the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
“The phased manner of the exit from lockdown is welcome and provides a roadmap for economic restart after 3rd May. The MHA guidelines are in line with CII suggestions on calibrated exit from lockdown as per spatial and sectoral considerations while maintaining health and sanitation as well as social distancing protocols. With this advance guidance, the industry would be able to better prepare for the restart of economic activities,” stated Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII.
CII is thankful to the government for giving special emphasis on continuation of agriculture and rural activities after April 20. CII has been stressing that livelihoods of the rural population need to be protected by allowing agriculture and allied sector operations to continue, including harvesting of Rabi crop, MNREGA activities, and rural infrastructure-related construction activities.
Given that Rabi crop is in the harvesting stage, CII also suggested that all necessary support industries such as Agri inputs including fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, and other Agri inputs should be allowed under the essential categories to prepare for the upcoming Kharif crop. With initial reports on monsoons expected to be above normal, this was an important step to ensure that the entire ecosystem of Agri inputs farm machinery and other Agri value chain to be operational, CII said. CII has issued detailed protocols for health and sanitation for mandis, transporters and loaders and farmers.
Opening up operations for plantations is a welcome move. CII had suggested that the window of harvesting tea would soon end by mid-May and hence labour operations in tea plantations should be allowed while maintaining all health and sanitation protocols.
The guidelines to permit facilities along highways such as repair shops and dhabas will boost truck movement and smoothen the logistics supply chain, said CII, adding that this was as per CII recommendations.
CII had suggested a gradual exit from the lockdown with key sectors relating to essential items, employment-intensive sectors, export-facing sectors, and import reduction manufacturing to be prioritized. As per this, CII recommended opening up of textiles and garments, pharmaceuticals, food processing, and minerals and metals in the first stage.
The MHA guidelines have given high importance to essential items, including their smooth movement, as well as the export sector. CII hopes that in the next phase, some of the important labour-intensive sectors would be permitted to operate in a calibrated manner with full hygiene and sanitation measures being followed While courier services and e-commerce offices are being allowed to function, the Government may also look into home delivery of retail products including electronics and other household items in addition to essentials. This would help meet the existing household demand as well as help retailing operations clear their existing stocks and keep the retail sector partially operational while maintaining all protocols.
CII feels that the existing export orders and opportunities should be met to retain our export market share in the post-COVID period. Hence, textiles and garments and Automobiles ecosystem including components and maintenance services should be allowed to operate after April 20 to meet their export obligations and well as to ensure free movement of goods.