12:54 GMT24 September 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown until 14 April; however, following a Saturday meeting with state chiefs, the government decided that it should be extended due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases. Some states, in turn, favoured relaxing certain restrictions in non-affected districts.

    The Indian Home Ministry wrote to all states late on Sunday night to facilitate the industries involved in manufacturing essential commodities so that they continue to work unabated during the lockdown.

    In addition to the Home Ministry's directive, more measures have been proposed by the federal Commerce Ministry for easing restrictions on some more industries, even as there is a strong possibility that the lockdown in India may continue for some time. These measures are also under consideration by the government.

    In a late evening letter on 12 April to the chief secretaries of state governments, highlighting the problems faced by transporters carrying essentials, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said, “Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) engaged in the manufacture of essential items like wheat flour, pulses and edible oils should be allowed to function freely without any hindrances”.

    “Warehouses, cold storages should be allowed to freely function with allowance of to and fro movements of trucks and without regard to nature of goods whether essential or otherwise. Warehouses of companies should also be allowed”, Bhalla added in the letter.   

    On 11 April, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the federal Ministry of Commerce wrote to the Home Ministry suggesting measures on the basis of interactions held by Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal with various states and industry bodies.

    The letter proposed that “certain more activities with reasonable safeguards should be allowed once a final decision regarding extension and nature of the lockdown is taken by the central government. These are essential to improve the economic activity and provide liquidity in the hands of people”. 

    The DPIIT suggestions include allowing certain industries with “sufficient space social distancing” and safeguards like “single entry and exit points for labourers” and “high quality sanitation”, among others.

    The proposal, a copy of which is with Sputnik, said, “Big companies with proper sanitation and distancing norms in place in sectors such as textiles, automobiles and electronic manufacturing (20% to 25% capacity in single shift may be considered to start with). Those companies / MSMEs with export commitments need to be allowed to operate with minimal manpower and necessary movement of material as a new entity".

    The proposal also made a case for opening certain industries with limited manpower if the lockdown in extended. These include transformers, telecom equipment, defence and defence ancillary, cement plants, fertiliser plants, seed units, automotive factories, plastic units, and all special economic zones, among others.

    A decision pertaining to these will have to be taken by the government along with the decision on extending the lockdown. Both are being actively being considered by the Indian government, according to sources.

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a 21-day lockdown in the country which came into effect on 24 March at midnight. The shutdown provisions are likely to be extended after the heads of various states in the country advised the prime minister in a high-profile meeting on Saturday.


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