Industry calls for stimulus, graded exit from lockdown
NEW DELHI : Indian industry called upon the government to allow a graded opening of business operations along with a stimulus package to get the economy back on track with the nationwide lockdown slated to end on 3 May.
The curbs are unlikely to be lifted completely, with many parts still labelled covid red zones, but industry leaders said it was important to allow factories to restart even if at a fraction of their capacities.
“We hope that the government will announce a fiscal stimulus package soon to move to a ‘V’-shaped recovery. India’s stimulus package so far is just 0.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), and there is sufficient scope to increase support measures,” said Vikram Kirloskar, president of the Confederation of Indian Industry.
All sectors should be allowed to begin with a quarter of their workforce to enable social distancing, and authorities should facilitate a smooth flow of goods, he said.
The government should unlock state-run warehouses with 80 million tonnes of grain to deliver food to the poor every day and make direct transfers of ₹3,000-5,000 to Jan Dhan accounts once a fortnight till June, Kirloskar said. Banks should provide loans covering salaries from April to June at an interest rate of 4-5%, he said.
“From lockdown to graded opening up, from scared of covid to cautious of covid and confident we can beat it. Awaiting a positive #LifeAfterLockdown with government stimulus package,” Sangita Reddy, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) tweeted on Thursday.
The central and state governments need to show flexibility to enable factories to work 12-hour shifts wherever possible, said Sanjay Bhatia, president of Ficci’s medium and small enterprises panel. Most states are allowing factories to work in a single shift against the usual three shifts.
“Interstate or interdistrict movement of consumer durables is restricted. We are requesting different ministries that movement of durables and electronics be classified as essentials,” said Manish Sharma, president and CEO of Panasonic India and chairperson of Ficci’s panel on electronics and manufacturing.
Top executives want the government to come out with clear guidelines on movement of goods. “The government also needs to think about how public transportation can be opened up,” said Rampraveen Swaminathan, managing director and CEO, Mahindra Logistics, a third-party logistics provider.
Industry should be allowed to function without hindrance in safe zones and with minimum curbs in areas that are not affected much, said Deepak Sood, secretary general of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry. “We need to ensure a minimum level of continuity in operations,” he said.
Industries have been preparing to ensure social distancing, but manpower-intensive businesses will take days to restore normalcy, Sood said.