Lockdown 2.0: With state govts cautious, relaxation some way off

Labourers resume work at a brick factory in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj on Monday. Lockdown curbs were relaxed in some parts from April 20 | Photo: PTI
Suleiman Mollah, a migrant labourer from South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, works in one of Noida’s many garment factories. Sumit Vij owns a small-scale electric bulb-manufacturing facility in the region. With the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA’s) notification last week on partially lifting the lockdown, both had hoped for resumption in industrial activities. But a last-minute order on extension from the district magistrate has dashed their hopes.

Despite the partial relief offered by the central government, the once bustling industrial hub in Noida-Greater Noida continues to remain shut. None of the large electronics manufacturers in the region has managed to secure a go-ahead from the local authorities.

Teams of Samsung to LG, Vivo to Oppo, had held several rounds of discussion with the state labour department, industrial authorities, and the district magistrate’s office since the MHA order, but to no avail.

An order of the district magistrate of Gautam Buddha Nagar (UP) on Sunday banned activities within 3 km of any coronavirus hotspot or where a Covid-19 case has been found. That, according to sources, covered the industrial zone of the region.
According to Vipin Malhan, president of the Noida Entrepreneurs Association (NEA), none of the 12,800 business units in the region began operations on Monday. The region houses some 3,000 garment-manufacturing units, while 500 electronics manufacturers are active there.

Noida-Greater Noida, however, is not an aberration. After nearly a month of lockdown, most states have decided to tread cautiously in allowing industry to resume operations.

Maharashtra got 2,500 online applications on resuming work. Accommodating workers on the premises, however, is a big challenge and according to an initial government assessment, 60 per cent of industries have expressed their inability to provide housing within the compound.

The Maharashtra government had earlier allowed transporting workers in buses dedicated for this to the respective units but the rules have been modified and industries in both rural and urban areas would have to arrange for accommodation.

Dassault Reliance Aerospace (DRAL), a Reliance Infrastructure and Dassault Aviation JV, restarted operations on Monday at the special economic zone (SEZ) in MIHAN (Multi-Model International Passenger and Cargo Hub Airport at Nagpur), the company said in a statement.

DRAL, in this first phase, will operate at 25-30 per cent of its strength and gradually scale up in consultation with the district administration and MIHAN authorities. Some states like Tamil Nadu have decided to continue with the existing lockdown till May 3. Industries including automobile manufacturing and textiles, which were expecting a partial lifting of the lockdown, will remain closed now. Relaxations for essential services, however, will continue. In the past 24 hours, 43 persons tested positive in Tamil Nadu, taking the tally to 1,520.

Kerala, too, appeared to be going back on relaxations such as opening barber shops, allowing more than two passengers in four-wheelers, and more than one on two-wheelers after the MHA pointed out dilutions to the Disaster Management Act.

Allowing restaurants in districts not affected by coronavirus to have dine-in till 7 pm has also been withdrawn, but the time for online food delivery service has been extended till 9 pm. A revised guideline for this is expected to be issued later on Monday. 

Even as lockdown has affected revenues, states are not taking chances.

West Bengal has said it has received 1,500 applications for resuming industrial activities. Of those, 300 had been granted permission. Around 375 applications were from containment zones and they have all been rejected, the government said.

Titagarh Wagons MD Umesh Chowdhary said: “We sent a communication to the state on Monday, asking for permission. We are planning to operate at 25 per cent workforce.”

Berger Paints has approached all state governments for permission to start operations and till now has received it from Assam, Goa, and Pondicherry.

Although CM Mamata Banerjee has said that permission can be given in rural belts by the chief secretary, lockdown measures will be stringent in red zones and sensitive areas. Karnataka, which had earlier decided to allow partial relaxation in activities such as construction, has decided to continue with the lockdown till May 3 without any relaxations.

Only essentials, agriculture- and horticulture-related activities, will be allowed.

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa will review the situation with officials on Wednesday and take a call on the situation. The state had earlier also made a U-turn on allowing two-wheelers to move in non-Covid hotspots and had retracted permission for IT-BT companies to operate with one-third of their workforce. The Uttar Pradesh government has deferred relaxation in 19 districts that have reported more than 10 coronavirus cases. These districts include nearly all the major industrial hubs.

Resumption in industrial activities in the remaining 56 districts will be under vigilance. Work on the Purvanchal Expressway, 
Bundelkhand Expressway, and Gorakhpur Link Expressway, estimated to cost Rs 42,000 crore, will start soon.

Manufacturing units, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in Gujarat crawled their way into resuming operations.

Units and facilities within the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) limits do not have permission to resume operations since April 20. Of the roughly 178 manufacturing members under the Sanand Industries Association, hardly 70 began operations. In Andhra Pradesh, on other hand, while the government had eased lockdown from Monday outside red zones, no fresh activity has been resumed.

“We would want to wait and watch the situation for a few days. Once we get clarity on what is required to restart operations the industry association will approach the state government with specific suggestions and requests to restart,” said D Radkha Krishna, chairman of the Andhra Pradesh chapter of the CII.

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