Major relaxation for industries, no FIR against owners for Covid-19 cases: State govt officials

Covid-19 updates: According to government estimates, not more than 5% of the industries started operations after April 20, when they were allowed to operate for the first time since the lockdown started on March 24.
Migrant workers leave for their native state during lockdown in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.(Dheeraj Dhawan/HT Photo)
Migrant workers leave for their native state during lockdown in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.(Dheeraj Dhawan/HT Photo)
Updated on May 02, 2020 08:37 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Lucknow | ByPawan Dixit

Industries would get a major fillip from May 4 with most state governments deciding to do away with the condition that an industry owner will be booked if a worker tests positive for Covid-19 and permitting to transport goods, said officials in multiple states.

According to government estimates, not more than 5% of the industries started operations after April 20, when they were allowed to operate for the first time since the lockdown started on March 24.

Factory owners cited tough Covid-19 conditions for not opening factories.

The two conditions of concern for them were booking of factory owners for Covid-19 cases in their factories and mandatory in-situ boarding facilities for workers. Some factory owners have also complained of trucks carrying good being stopped on highways by the police.

On Thursday, the Union home ministry issued a guideline exempting permits for all transport vehicles, which factory owners see as a major relief from harassment on roads. As per the guideline, police cannot check these vehicles during the lockdown.

State government officials said on Friday the new industry guidelines to be issued in the next two days would see major relaxation in the norms for green and orange zones.

“In green and orange zones, the industries would be almost back to normal,” said a government official.

The officials, however, said industries could be allowed in red zones with tough conditions but not in the containment zones.

Uttar Pradesh’s industrial development minister, Satish Mahana, said industry owners have been told that no first information report (FIR) will be lodged against them in case an employee tests positive for coronavirus. “We have also proposed to some more relaxations for the industry,” Mahana said.

A Rajasthan government official said they have told industry owners to scan workers and no punitive action will be taken against them, if a worker tests positive. “We have told factory owners to maintain an everyday health record of workers,” the official, who was not willing to be named, said.

A government official in Maharashtra said they have assured industry owners that they will not need any permission from the district collectors to operate, including for vehicles to bring workers and transportation of goods. Only 5% of total industries creating employment for 130,000 workers have started operations.

The state’s principal secretary (industries) Venugopal Reddy said, “The government is trying to maximise the re-opening of industries and reduce the hurdles. The spread in Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune Metropolitan Region has been very high which has caused major problems in the industrial sector.”

Just 1.5% of the 252,000 industries resumed operations in Punjab, the most industrialised state in northern India.

“As there are issues related to supply chain, demand and working capital due to the nationwide lockdown, it is not as though everyone is getting back to work,” Vini Mahajan, additional chief secretary (ACS), industries and commerce, said.

She said since this is a calibrated sort of opening up, one of the issues flagged by the industry owner is that cottage and tiny units located in urban areas should also be allowed to resume.

In Himachal Pradesh, where the industries are mostly on the borders of Punjab and Haryana, factory owners want the government to allow inter-state travel of workers.

“This is just shifting of the virtual borders and solve the dual purpose of making manpower available to the industry as well as containing the spread of Covid-19 in Himachal,” Shailesh Pathak, chairperson of Confederation of Indian Industry’s Himachal Pradesh chapter, said.

“The state government would take all necessary steps for smooth movement of workforce besides strengthening the supply chain of raw material and furnished goods from the industries,” said chief minister Jairam Thakur.

Pankaj Kumar, national president, Indian Industries Association, said if the government is able to address major concerns of the industry then from coming Monday (May 4) onwards there would be a resumption of some industrial activity.

“Most states have withdrawn the FIR clause in the guideline. But the availability of workers, who are not returning, will remain,” said he said.

The industry owners are seeking no penalty for delay in completing the projects, waiving fixed energy charges and minimum charges for lockdown period and relaxation in norms for paying provident fund and other benefits to workers.

However, many states such as West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha are waiting for the central government guidelines to give a fillip to factories to resume operations.

“We are waiting for detailed guidelines from the Union government on relaxations after May 3,” an official of the West Bengal government, who was not willing to be named, said.

Once that happens, he said, the state will give more relaxation to industries. Only about half of 5452 applications in the state has got permission to run factories and only 25 of the 100 major jute mills have been allowed to run with 15% of workers.

(With inputs from state bureaus)

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Friday, December 03, 2021