CII prez suggests measured opening up of activities to avoid new Covid wave

T V Narendran, CII president and Tata Steel MD and CEO.

Industry chamber CII President T V Narendran has suggested that the government should follow a cautious approach in opening up of all activities with a view to avoid a possible third wave of the COVID pandemic.

The focus of opening up in the immediate run, he said, should be on economic activities including restarting the supply chains as they are essential for reviving the growth and ensuring livelihoods to the vast majority of the workforce.

"We should prioritise what activities should be allowed, rather than opening up everything. Avoid the avoidable activities. There are many things which do not need to happen. There are many things which need to happen like economic activities... but social events etc... can wait for a few months, let them wait for a few months. Why increase the risk," Narendran told PTI in an interview.

He cautioned that one should be "very" watchful before unlocking so that "we do not open up sooner than required and create a (coronavirus) wave three".

Several states and union territories have announced easing of curbs on account of decline in the number of coronavirus infections.

The Delhi High Court Friday took cognisance of the violation of COVID-19 protocols in various markets in the national capital and observed that such breaches will only hasten the third wave of coronavirus which cannot be permitted at all.

The new CII president said that economic activity has shrunk in May and to some extent in April and everyone was impacted by multiple local lockdowns, disruptions to supply chains and demand.

"The fact that economic activity has come down is obvious, it has also reflected in the GST (Goods and Services Tax) numbers...The second wave has derailed economic recovery," he added.

He also advocated for appointment of a "Vaccine Czar" for speedy vaccination coverage, stating that there should be a minimum 71.2 lakh average daily vaccination doses from now till December 2021 to cover the entire adult population.

Vaccination is here to stay and the country needs to be ready for the long term, he said.

When asked about FIR against social media giant Twitter and the kind of signal it would send to global investors, Narendran said that it is not just in India, across the world, countries are figuring out how to deal with the social media firms.

Several countries are looking at ways to regulate social media companies and put in place checks and balances, he added.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has recently slammed Twitter for deliberate defiance and failure to comply with the country's new IT rules, which has led to the US giant losing its intermediary status in India and becoming liable for users posting any unlawful content.

Talking about concerns of MSME engineering sector on rising steel prices, Narendran, who is also CEO and Managing Director of Tata Steel, said that was conscious of those concerns, but stated that steel prices in India were still the cheapest in the world.

"They have a concern where they have a fixed price contract...I am not insensitive to their concerns," he said.

Volatility of prices is the unfortunate reality of the industry, it sometimes hurts producers and sometimes consumers, "both of us need to de-risk ourselves," he said.

Ludhiana Hand Tools Association President S C Ralhan has recently stated that many of the competing countries, particularly China, provide support to manufacturing units by providing steel and other inputs at much reasonable prices to boost competitiveness of their engineering sector in the global markets.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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