Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressed the nation again on April 14, 2020, and announced the extension of nationwide Lockdown till May 3, 2020. This tough decision was taken to strictly curb the spread of the Coronavirus and to further monitor the recovery of COVID-19 cases in the most affected areas of the country. At the time of writing this article, the number of confirmed cases in India reached 12,380 and the death toll escalated to 414.
While India entered the second phase of lockdown, the Ministry of Home Affairs on April 15 set out detailed guidelines on the partial resumption of certain selected economic activities after April 20, 2020. This came as a huge relief to mitigate the hardships faced by the public amidst lockdown. These activities will only be allowed after the State and District authorities confirm that the spread of the Coronavirus is well contained within their borders, classifying such areas as Green Zones. There will be no activity in the red zones – the districts which are declared as COVID hotspots.
The objective of the revised guidelines is to consolidate the gains achieved during the 1st phase of lockdown and further slow down the spread of COVID-19 and at the same time provide relief to farmers, laborers, and daily wage earners. Let’s quickly check out the broad classification of activities coming under lockdown relaxation after April 20, 2020.
1. Movement of Cargo
Transportation of goods will be permitted without any distinction of essential or non-essential. Railways will kickstart parcel trains, operation of airports will begin for cargo movement, relief and evacuation through the air. Seaports and landpots operations will also start for essential goods such as petroleum, LPG and medical supplies. This will also include movement of all trucks/ carrier vehicles for delivery and pickup of things, by showing passes issued by local authorities.
2. Farming Operations
All kinds of farming operations, including procurement of agricultural products, agriculture marketing through notified Mandis (direct and decentralized marketing), manufacture, distribution and retail of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds; activities of marine and inland fisheries; animal husbandry activities, including the supply chain of milk, milk products, poultry and live-stock farming; and tea, coffee and rubber plantations are allowed to operate only on maintaining strict social distancing and hygiene measures
3. Public Utilities
All public utilities will remain operational without hindrance. This includes LPG/Petrol/Kerosene production and distribution, water, sanitation, power generation and transmission, waste management facilities and telecommunication services.
4. Supply of Essential Goods
All facilities in supply of essential goods including manufacturing, retail and wholesale of such goods through local stores, large stores or e-commerce, Kirana Shops, Ration Shops dealing with food and groceries, fruits and vegetables, hygiene items, dairy and milk, poultry, meat and fish, animal feed and fodder.
5. Commercial & Private Establishments
Activities under print and electronic media including broadcasting, DTH and cable services and IT & IT-enabled services will remain functional. Sticking to operate at 50% of strength – call centres for government activities, Common Service Centres (CSCs) at Gram Panchayat level are allowed. E-commerce companies will have to comply with necessary permissions to keep up the operations.
6. Industrial Establishments
Manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control have been permitted in SEZs (Special Economic Zones), EoUs (Export Oriented Units), industrial estates and industrial townships after implementation of all protocols for social distancing.
7. Financial Institutions
Reserve Bank of India (RBI), regulated financial markets, bank branches & ATMs, IT vendors for banking operations, ATM operation & cash management agencies, SEBI & capital market, debt market services, IRDAI & insurance companies
are allowed to function upon following necessary precautions.
8. MNREGA & Construction Activities
MNREGA works are allowed with strict implementation of social distancing & face mask. Also, construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings, industrial projects in rural areas, renewable energy projects within limits of municipalities will operate where workers are already available and are not brought from outside.
The revised guidelines also permit all health services and social sectors to remain functional. With the digital economy on the rise, distance learning and online teaching should be promoted. All the State and Central Government offices will remain open, in order to strictly monitor the situation.
The activities prohibited across the country include travel by air, rail and road; operation of educational and training institutions; industrial and commercial activities; hospitality services; all cinema halls, shopping complexes, theatres, etc., all social, political and other events, and opening of all religious places/ places of worship for members of the public, including religious congregations.
Clearly, health is wealth in the eyes of the government and it is now the responsibility of each and every citizen to pull the nation out of the dangers of this pandemic. The stricter we follow social distancing guidelines, the faster we will be able to put our economy on an upward trajectory. Most importantly, small businesses need to re-evaluate their current practices and adopt new strategies to effectively bounce back after the lockdown ends.
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