Govt to ease lockdown curbs in select sectors

NEW DELHI, Apr 19: With states gearing up to revive limited business activity after the Centre announced easing some of the curbs on 15 April, union minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said more relief measures are bound to come if the country continues to manage the coronavirus crisis well, asserting, “you cannot (have) lockdown permanently.”
While the relaxations starting from 20 April are primarily aimed at boosting the rural economy, Javadekar, who is a member of the group of ministers (GoM) to oversee measures to combat Covid-19, expressed confidence that economic activities will resume in cities, as well, “sooner than later.”
Four days after e-commerce companies were allowed to sell products like mobile phones, refrigerators and readymade garments, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued an order excluding non-essential items from their business. The 15 April order had said e-commerce platforms were allowed to sell such items from 20 April.
Bhalla also said labourers who are stranded in different parts of the country due to the lockdown will be allowed to go to their respective places of work within a state with certain conditions.
He, however, made it clear that there will be no interstate movement of workers during the lockdown.
Since additional activities, outside the containment zones, have been permitted in the ‘consolidated revised guidelines’ with effect from 20 April, these workers could be engaged in industrial, manufacturing, construction, farming and MNREGA works, he said.
Agriculture, construction, information technology (IT), industrial units in the special economic zones (SEZ) and rural areas, and e-commerce operations were among the select sectors where the coronavirus-induced lockdown restrictions are to be lifted from 20 April in a bid to also reduce the distress caused to millions of people.
The relaxations lay strict emphasis on social distancing, with a warning by the Centre that it will be withdrawn if there is any violation of the lockdown norms. Wearing of masks has been made mandatory, besides making spitting a punishable offence with a fine of at least Rs 1,000.
Services provided by self-employed electricians, IT repairs, plumbers, motor mechanics, and carpenters will be allowed giving relief to people looking for such facilities.
Highway ‘dhabas’ (eateries), truck repairing shops and call centres for government activities will remain open from 20 April.
The Centre has also allowed movement of all trucks and other goods vehicles with two drivers and one helper, subject to the driver carrying a valid driving licence.
An empty truck or vehicle will be allowed to ply after the delivery of goods, or for picking up goods.
Both government and private industries and industrial establishments “operating in rural areas, ie, outside the limits of municipal corporations and municipalities,” will be allowed to operate, it said.
Activities permitted include those related to the agricultural and horticultural sectors, farmers and farm workers in the field, as well as procurement of agriculture products.
Shops selling agriculture machinery and those dealing with spare parts, supply chains and repairs, as well as ‘custom hiring centres’ related to farm machinery will also be open from Monday.
Units manufacturing drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, medical infrastructure (including manufacture of ambulances) will also open.
Noting that digital economy is critical to the services sector, the ministry said e-commerce operations, operations of IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS), data and call centres for government activities, and online teaching and distance learning are all permitted.
The IT and ITeS sectors will be allowed to operate with up to 50 percent strength. (PTI)