Task force to be set up to find ways for Punjab to gradually get out of lockdown, announces Capt Amarinder
During video conference to discuss situation, seeks industry’s suggestions on way forward
Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday announced that a Task Force would soon be set up to find ways for the state to gradually get out of the unprecedented lockdown.
Addressing a Video Conference of the state’s leading industrialists, the Chief Minister assured the industry of all support by the government to address critical issues and challenges in this difficult time. While seeking the industry’s suggestions on the way forward, invited them to be part of the government’s decision-making process in the extraordinary situation that is prevailing currently.
Among the various issues raised by industry leaders was the demand for declaring tractors & ancillary industries as essential and allowing them reopen to meet the urgent needs of farmers in the Rabi harvesting and marketing season. The demand for declaring cycles as essential commodity was also raised. Another suggestion that came up was to allow the packaging industry to resume operations, given its importance in ensuring streamlined operations of essential commodities.
Other suggestions from the industry related to revival of air cargo services to Chandigarh, as well as incentives to health and medical start-ups in the state. A suggestion for relief to the tourism industry, that had been badly hit by the lockdown, was also discussed.
A major issue discussed at the meeting related to the problems faced by pharmaceutical companies, which were playing a pivotal role in tackling the COVID-19 crisis. Among these problems was closure of inter-state transport in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as certain restrictions to movement of goods and labour from Haryana. Cash flow problems were also highlighted by the industry, who wanted clarity on the payments to be made to the workers during this critical period.
The Chief Minister asked the Industry Department to take urgent notice of these issues and resolve them at the earliest, given the guidelines in place for certain industries to operate amid the national lockdown. If anyone wants to operate, they should approach the state government and all efforts would be made to address their requests within the framework of the guidelines, he added.
Even as he thanked the industry for their unstinted support to the state government in this hour of crisis, the Chief Minister said the battle ahead was a prolonged one, with far-reaching global implications for the economy and the industry. Everyone is suffering because of the closures, which India clamped early to check the spread of the pandemic, he said, adding that perhaps the early steps taken had helped. At the moment, things were in control in Punjab, he added.
Pointing out that his request to the industry for holding back and taking care of the migrant labour was not an order but a suggestion, the Chief Minister said since it was still not clear how the long the closure/lockdown would need to continue, it was important to keep them back. Had the migrant labour left they would not have easily come back, which would have caused immense difficulty for the state, which is heading into the harvesting and procurement season, he added.
Concerns were expressed at the meeting over the economic slowdown resulting from the lockdown and the CII representative suggested that taxation officers could work from hone to process GST and VAT refunds. The CII is also donating 20 ventilators to help out the health department to tackle the medical emergency facing the state.
It was felt by some industrialists that the post-Corona shift from China to other countries would offer an opportunity for India, which Punjab should actively explore.
The industry earlier thanked the Chief Minister for reduction in power tariff for the next two months, which would be of particular benefit to small industries. They also expressed appreciation for the state government’s early decision to go for lockdown/curfew.
Industry Minister Sunder Shyam Arora appreciated the role played by industry, which had risen to the occasion in this major battle. Transport Secretary K Siva Prasad said all efforts were being made to ensure smooth transportation, with control rooms to coordinate and manage the movement between states and districts.
Participants in the conference included Sachit Jain, Rajinder Gupta (Trident), A S Mittal (Sonalika), Upkar Ahuja, Harish Chavan (Mahindra), Karan Gilhotra, Sachid Madan (ITC), Rahul Ahuja (CII), Pankaj Munjal (Hero Cycles), Gautam Kapoor, Rupinder Sachdeva, S P Oswal, Kamal Oswal, Dinesh Dua (Pharma), Ashok Sethi (Basmati), Komal Talwar (IT), Mukul Verma (Sports Goods), Bhavdeep Sardana.