India Inc says ‘Aye’ to containment, ‘Nay’ to lockdowns

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Prime Minister’s COVID-19 curfew and micro-containment strategies have received overwhelming support of Indian industry. A CEO poll conducted by apex industry organisation Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) revealed 75 per cent of the 710 CEOs supported the PM’s COVID strategy.

The CEOs believe that partial lockdown measures to fight COVID-19 infection could impact the movement of labour as well as movement of goods, in turn affecting industrial production significantly.

About 60 per cent of the CEOs polled said that their production could be affected if there are restrictions on movement of labour during these partial lockdowns. Similarly, 56 per cent of the CEOs expressed their concerns over up to 50 per cent loss of production if there were restrictions on the ecosystem that supports movement of goods. The CEOs’ opinions pertained to both manufacturing and services. Among the respondents, 68 per cent were from medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs).

“Stringent enforcement measures to promote strict adherence to health and safety protocols are essential and any measures to restrict social gatherings should not be extended to regular functioning of industry and commerce,” said TV Narendran, President-designate, CII.

Indian CEOs (96 per cent of the respondents) said they are well prepared and equipped for implementation of stricter health and safety protocols. Stringent implementation of safety norms was opined to be better than the option of partial lockdowns by 93 per cent of the CEOs polled.

“Protecting livelihoods along with lives is essential and industry is keen to work with the government on universal coverage (18 years and above) of vaccination programme and in implementing strict health and safety protocols,” said Narendran.

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Looking at ways to mitigate the impact of the restrictions, several CEOs – about 67 per cent of those polled – expressed their desire to work with the government for mass vaccination of eligible workforce who are 45 years and above. While 57 per cent of the companies expressed the need to stock raw materials in excess of just-in-time levels to meet any likely shortage of raw materials, about 31 per cent of the industry leaders said that they would accommodate their labour force in the factory in case of movement restrictions due to night curfew.

More than 60 per cent of the CEOs suggested that the government should allow movement of workers in all shifts during night curfews and also free movement of goods along with the required personnel to facilitate the movement of goods. This should be allowed with all workers and industry staff strictly following all health and safety protocols.

“The government handled both lives and livelihoods effectively during the first wave. It could do so again by keeping industrial activities out of the ambit of partial lockdowns aimed at restricting social gatherings. This will help India recover from the economic contraction and stabilise the upward growth trends being currently witnessed in several sectors,” said Narendran.