“I think we should start talking more practical instead of making wish lists… The decision on lockdown will be taken at appropriate time, after making due assessment, but gains made during the period can’t be lost, through a hurried approach”, he said.
His statement assumes significance in the wake of industry’s keenness to resume work as economic activity has come to virtual standstill because of the three-week nationwide lockdown which is due to end on April 14.
“Stress on economy and livelihood has to be protected but saving the lives of the people of the country is of prime importance,” commerce and industry ministry said in a statement quoting Goyal.
An industry representative who participated in the meeting said that some sections of industry have proposed staggered working hours and alternate shifts.
As per another person who attended the meeting, the challenge is also that many states have extended the lockdowns
“While Odisha has extended it, Tamil Nadu is also likely to extend it,” said the second person, adding that the high number of Covid-19 hotspots in Maharashtra may also lead to an extension of the lockdown in that state.
On the demand of certain participants for early announcement of the relief package for the industry, the minister said that the feedback received is being forwarded to the finance ministry for consideration, which is likely to take a balanced, nuanced approach.
Industry sources said the minister assured them that these recommendations have been sent to the empowered groups looking at Covid-19 issues.
Labour, liquidity, logistics
During the meeting, industry raised the issues of liquidity crunch, order cancellation, labour scarcity, different interpretation of the central government’s orders by the state and district authorities, trucks being stranded and difficulty in getting the spare parts.
“A major part of the problem is logistics both domestic and global. Then there are labour problems as people are not available to ferry goods from factory to port or for loading and unloading. There are no drivers to drive trucks,” said the first person.
Industry also said that despite government’s claims of 24/7 clearance at ports, officials are not available to do so.
Citing working capital and labour challenges, the second person said that an idea to have workers stay inside the factories was mooted.
“There was a swift action from the government in the Initial few days bu these efforts are not showing at the ground level and people are not getting directions from the respective departments,” the person said.