While the government assesses the economic fallout of a proposed extension of the current lockdown, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci) has said the country can’t afford prolonged confinement.
Arguing in favour of maximum social distancing at all costs, Ficci has called for dynamic policy measures to bringing about a fine balance that normalises economic and social activity in an exit strategy, released on Friday.
Prime among these is a demand for a package for migrant labourers as well as effective messaging by central and state governments to ensure their early return. Ficci has said the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) may drive the process and instill greater confidence among the labourers.
For essential commodities, Ficci has proposed greater relaxation in the number of hands working at the plant and warehouses. It has also suggested that industry associations be allowed to submit to the Centre the names of companies, their manufacturing/warehousing locations and the number of people at each location by shift. A central administrative manager for each firm would be empowered to issue authorisation letters to employees along with copy of a central letter that must be recognised by the State government.
It also wants the government to institute Covid-19 standards for manufacturing, compliance to which will enable even non-essential units to operate.
The chamber has released a long list of demands that it says are necessary to support domestic industry in tiding over the economic downturn. It has asked the government to put in place higher import duties for products other than essentials and raw materials for six months, in order to protect the domestic sector. Arguing that India may face a massive wave of Chinese dumping, it has asked the government to introduce strict anti-dumping measures expeditiously.
Ficci has also pushed for all pending payments from government buyers to be immediately cleared and paid to companies so that crucial working capital is unlocked. The need for three per cent interest subvention on working capital and term loans for small businesses has also been pointed out. The industry body has also sought a rebate on or deferment of electricity bills and tax deferment, including GST without any penalties.
On the farm front, Ficci has said that inputs such as seeds and fertilisers are currently not available to farmers and that is hampering the cultivation of summer crops. It has warned that the entire agricultural value chain needs to be reopened fast, otherwise a crisis for farmers and agriculture labour may ensue. Also, farmers should be encouraged to sell their produce through e-NAM directly without needing to take the produce physically to Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) centres.
For medical supplies, farm produce and other essential items, the industry body has called for the deployment of army or para-military forces and their vehicles, removing the need of intra-state and inter-state permits.