New Delhi: Activities like agriculture, e-commerce, manufacturing and IT services will be allowed after April 20 as the central government on Wednesday released fresh guidelines for the nationwide lockdown with more relaxations to "mitigate hardships to the public".
The guidelines, issued by the home ministry a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the lockdown till May 3, has also allowed exceptions for construction activities and rural works under MNREGA to restart the economy in a graded manner. The full list of activities that are prohibited and allowed can be seen here.
“The revised consolidated guidelines are aimed at operating those sectors of the economy which are critical from the perspective of rural and agricultural development and job creation, while maintaining strict protocols in areas where safety is paramount to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country,” the government release said.
Adding to the list of exceptions from the last time, the government said all farming operations, including procurement of agricultural products and agriculture marketing through notified mandis, will be permitted. The supply chain of milk, milk products, poultry and live-stock farming and tea, coffee and rubber plantations will also resume.
Another major relaxation comes for manufacturing units as the sector contributes to nearly 17 per cent to India’s GDP and employs about 12 per cent of the country’s workforce.
Earlier, only drugs & pharmaceuticals and food processing units were allowed to operate, but this has now been expanded to industries operating in rural areas, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Export Oriented Units (EoUs), industrial estates and industrial townships.
Manufacturing of IT hardware and production units for coal, jute, oil and packaging material can also resume work, along with oil and gas exploration/refineries.
The government has also allowed services provided by electricians, plumbers, IT repairs, carpenters and motor mechanics.
The order also says that in municipal areas, construction activities can be allowed but only if workers in these units live on site and are not from outside municipal limits. Construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings have been allowed in rural India.
The order, however, makes it clear that these economic activities will be allowed only if states and union territories allow strict social distancing measures.
“These activities will be operationalised by states/union territories administration based on strict compliance to the existing lockdown guidelines," the order issued by union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said.
The government has also issued a detailed list of steps that must factories, workplaces must take in order to resume operations. Sanitisation of lifts, staircases, washrooms, work spaces have all been mentioned in the order.
The MHA also says that special transport will have to be arranged for workers who come from outside, and the vehicles will have to be sanitised. Medical insurance for workers has been made mandatory as well.
"Work places shall have a gap of one hour between shifts and will stagger the lunch break of staff to ensure social distancing," the order says.
The government has also reiterated the ban on gutka and tobacco and asked establishments to identify nearest hospital for COVID 19 treatment before they begin operations.
Travel by air, rail and road, operation of educational and training institutions, hospitality services, cinema halls and shopping complexes will remain closed, as was the case earlier. All social, political and other events and opening of all religious places will also remain closed till the time the lockdown is in force, said the government.