The Union government, faced with the conflict between controlling the pandemic and preventing the economy from slipping, allowed trade activities to be restricted. This was done mainly with the intention of “rural and agricultural development and job creation”.
The ban will not be lifted entirely in trade and manufacturing, but units in rural, industrial and export areas may reopen if workers remain on or near their premises.
Commercial activities in essential services and products only will be permitted. Movie theaters, shopping centers, gymnasiums, etc. will remain closed until May 3. The new directives, notified Wednesday, do not set any production limit but left the decision to open establishments to states and local governments.
READ ALSO: LIVE Coronavirus: global cases exceed 2 million; nearly 500,000 recovered
An order from the Union’s Interior Ministry, giving directions, said it was being done to alleviate hardship for the population and that certain additional activities would be allowed starting April 20 in a graduated manner.
“These activities will be operationalized by the States, Union territories and the district administration on the basis of strict compliance (with) the existing directives on foreclosure measures,” said the order.
State governments can impose even more stringent measures.
Since the operation of a unit will depend on the decision of the local government and compliance with the standard operating procedure, decision-making will be more on a case-by-case basis.
District level bureaucrats, designated “incident commanders” and exercising the powers of the executive magistrates, will be responsible for monitoring industrial, commercial and agricultural activities, and even individuals for any breach of the foreclosure.
While the guidelines impose liability on the owners and the violation is punishable by law, experts view them as a test to lift the foreclosure.
READ ALSO: E-commerce companies seek to clarify non-essential elements; prepare for MHA guidelines
“This should be seen as an experiment for limited economic activity, which will not mean much in terms of recovery but would help to take stock,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE, told Business Standard Ratings.
The transport lockdown continues until May 3, with no aggregators from airlines, railways, metro, buses and taxis authorized to operate for passenger services. While this would prevent the movement of labor, it would be the responsibility of employers and incident commanders to bring workers to the workplace.
Sabnavis said that even if a lot of control had been removed and that this could help solve supply chain problems, the industry should change too.
“Those in the automotive, chemical and other similar sectors would now start to think in terms of accommodation for their employees.”
The revised consolidated guidelines also set out strict protocols. For example, while the information technology and information technology sectors are allowed to salvage half of their personnel, employees over the age of 65 and those with children under the age of five must have the possibility of working from home. All workplaces must have an hour-long interval between scheduled shifts and lunch breaks.
READ ALSO: Lockdown: MHA guidelines to mitigate supply chain problems, say consumer product manufacturers
According to Deepto Roy, partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, industrial premises in India are generally not suitable for social distancing, although units located in special economic zones are better suited to implement these measures “due to regulatory requirements which require them to have controlled access and designated premises. “
Sabnavis, however, said that these units faced a lack of demand as the export market was declining due to restrictions in other countries.
While the Interior Ministry has said it expects the industrial and manufacturing sectors to revive with these measures and “create job opportunities while maintaining security protocols and social distancing”, Sabnavis believed that the growth prospects remained bleak. “The service sector will decline, as will most manufacturing industries, except those in categories like the production of essential products like food and pharmaceuticals.” Sectors like cement and steel will continue to be severely affected. “
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech to the nation on April 14, 2020, said that the national lockdown would be extended until May 3, 2020, in order to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the country. He warned that if the guidelines were not followed by government surveillance agencies and others, more stringent measures would be taken.
Facial coverage in workplaces and public spaces, strong hygiene and health care measures such as the provision of disinfectants, shift work shifts, access control, thermal control and imposition of fines for spitting, etc., have been made mandatory.
The Union government has also reiterated strong containment measures in the hotspot districts representing a large number of Covid 19 cases or with rapidly growing cases. In the hotspot districts, state governments notify containment areas in accordance with detailed guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Only essential services are allowed in these areas and strict perimeter control and movement restrictions are applied.