Covid-19 Pandemic: India Considers Opening Some Industries Amid Lockdown
Buses and vehicles sit parked in a lot during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus in this aerial photograph taken in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Covid-19 Pandemic: India Considers Opening Some Industries Amid Lockdown

India is considering to allow certain types of manufacturing and services to resume with restrictions to kick-start the economy and avoid job losses even as the nation plans to extend the world’s biggest lockdown to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.

Big companies, with proper sanitation and social distancing norms in place, in sectors such as textiles, automobiles, and electronic manufacturing should be considered to operate with 20-25 percent capacity, Guruprasad Mohapatra, secretary of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, said in a letter to Ajay Bhalla, his counterpart in the Ministry of Home Affairs—BloombergQuint has reviewed the letter. These companies will have to provide single entry point for workers, and transportation or arrangements for their say in factories, he said.

The suggestions were received from the industry, and the Commerce Ministry felt it necessary to take it to the Home Ministry that decides which services will be exempt during the lockdown, a senior government official told BloombergQuint on the condition of anonymity. The ministry is expected to take a decision soon, he said.

The nation of 130 crore people is under a three-week lockdown in the biggest such restrictions anywhere in the world to check the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The shutdown could be extended by another two weeks, crippling the economy and making millions jobless. The Federation of Indian Export Organisations has warned that the sector may face 1.5 crore job losses alone due to order cancellations.

According to the DPIIT letter, companies, including micro, small and medium enterprises with export commitment, should also be allowed to operate with minimal manpower. The necessary notification may be issued to allow movement of man and material, and their export commitments need to be verified while issuing passes, it said.

According to the letter, industries which should be allowed to start with minimum manpower on a single shift include:

  • 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.
  • Cement plants.
  • Pulp and paper units.
  • Fertilizer 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.

The DPIIT also recommended allowing:

  • Housing and construction activity.
  • Manufacturing of rubber needed for healthcare.
  • Timbre, plywood that provide packaging material to pharma companies.
  • FMCG and other companies producing essential commodities.

The letter suggested that certain rubber items may be given priority for manufacturing. It can include pressure cooker gaskets, LPG hoses, adhesives, hospital rubber sheets, medical items–silicon, pharma stoppers, boots, catheters, anesthesia bags, valves, and dental supplies.

Housing and manufacturing could be allowed if construction workers stay at the sites with all facilities and safeguards, Mohapatra wrote. Contractors should ensure safety, sanitation and distancing norms, he said. DPIIT suggested that all transport vehicles be allowed to move within and outside states by enforcement agencies.

To improve doorstep delivery, all the street vendors like fruit and vegetable sellers should be allowed by states. Services like repair of mobiles, electrical items like refrigerator, air conditioner, television, plumbing and cycles; and cobblers, ironing, electrician, and automobile mechanics should also be allowed. This will help them get cash.

E-commerce platforms providing repair services may also be allowed. All such workmen should carry their ID cards, the letter said. DPIIT also suggested to let the glass and foundry industry to resume work with minimal manpower, and all activities related to agriculture inputs be allowed.

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