The Central Government on April 15, 2020 issued revised guidelines for the second phase of the COVID-19 lockdown in India. In his address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the lockdown in India – which has been extended till May 3, 2020 to arrest the spread of Coronavirus – will be relaxed in part with select necessary activities and businesses allowed to open from April 20, 2020, in identified areas of the country.
The new guidelines aim at a partial relaxation, working towards 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.
On April 14, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order to allow select additional activities in areas not demarcated as containment zones by States/ UTs/ District Administrations. Alongside this order, consolidated revised guidelines have been issued, delineating the prohibited activities across the country, activities allowed in containment zones, and select permitted activities allowed from April 20, 2020 in the rest of the country.
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 public, including religious congregations.
The permitted activities from April 20, 2020 are aimed at ensuring that agricultural and related activities remain fully functional; the rural economy functions with maximum efficiency; employment opportunities are created for daily wage earners and other members of the labour force; select industrial activities are allowed to resume their operations, with adequate safeguards and mandatory standard operating protocols (SOPs); and the digital economy.
Transportation of goods will be permitted without any distinction of essential or non-essential.
Farming operations, including procurement of agricultural products, agriculture marketing through notified Mandis and 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 be functional.
To provide an impetus to the rural economy, industries operating in rural areas, including food processing industries; construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and industrial projects in rural areas; works under MNREGA, with priority to irrigation and water conservation works; and operation of rural Common Service Centres (CSCs) have all been allowed. These activities will create job opportunities for rural labor, including the migrant labor force.
Manufacture of IT hardware and of essential goods and packaging are also allowed. It is expected that the industrial and manufacturing sectors will see a revival with these measures and will create job opportunities while maintaining safety protocols and social distancing.
At the same time, the important components of the financial sector, e.g., RBI, banks, ATMs, capital and debt markets as notified by SEBI and insurance companies will also remain functional, with a view to provide enough liquidity and credit support to the industrial sectors.
Push to Digital Economy
Digital economy is critical to the services sector and is important for national growth. Accordingly, e-commerce operations, operations of IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres for Government activities, and online teaching and distance learning are all permitted activities now.
The revised guidelines also permit all health services and the social sector to remain functional; public utilities to function without any hindrance; the supply chain of essential goods to operate without any hindrance; and, important offices of Central and State Governments and local bodies to remain open with required strength.
There are certain national guidelines like mandatory homemade face covers at workplaces and in public places, strong hygiene, and health care measures like provision of sanitisers, staggered shifts, access control, thermal screening and imposing fines for spitting etc. penalties will be imposed for violation.
The activities permitted under the revised guidelines, from April 20, 2020 will not be allowed within the containment zones as demarcated by States/ UTs/ District Administrations as per the guidelines of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). In these zones, no unchecked inward/ outward movement of population would be allowed, except for maintaining essential services, i.e., medical emergencies and law & order duties, and government business continuity.