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COVID 19: ASSOCHAM recommends reopening of economy in phases

ASSOCHAM has formulated standard operating procedures for re-opening of the economic activities in phases, putting agriculture, export units, highly automated industries and selective construction ahead of other vital sectors

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Working with the Centre and the state governments to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, ASSOCHAM has formulated a calibrated approach for re-opening of the economic activities in phases, putting agriculture, export units, highly automated industries and selective construction ahead of other vital sectors, with each phase strictly adhering to the safety SOPs (standard operating procedures), which include medical fitness and testing of employees resuming work.     
In a report, ‘India opening for Business–Suggested calibrated approach and potential SOP,’ ASSOCHAM has outlined detailed standard operating procedures for resuming the most vital sectors of the economy. Giving the top most priority to the safety of workforce and all other stakeholders, ASSOCHAM’s SOP has suggested mandatory medical check-up to be arranged for all employees and contract workers with repeat tests every month, till the pandemic is completely rooted out.  
“We have been working in close coordination with the Centre and the state governments. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief ministers are giving exemplary leadership to infuse confidence amongst 130 Indians and deal with the unprecedented global health emergency. We remain committed in the national resolute response to the challenge and would keep sharing our inputs and suggestions for navigating the economy in difficult times,” said ASSOCHAM secretary general, Deepak Sood.      
Construction where sufficient labour is already at site, export-oriented unis, government offices, e-commerce and agriculture are the sectors suggested for opening in the first phase. “As the Rabi harvest is picking up, necessitating the workforce to be in the fields along with agri machinery, it is imperative to facilitate the most important activity which has provided the food security to the country. While the agriculture sector may not be contributing commensurately with other segments in the gross domestic product (GDP), it is India's lifeline giving livelihood to over half of India’s population. This sector certainly needs the maximum of the national resources and commitment. It is good to see several states responding very well to the sector,” said Sood.
IT, ITeS, professional services, food retailing and hotels can follow while the retail, transport -including bus services and airlines should be the next to open up. Wider international operations can take place towards the end of the graded lockdown exit; though a lot would depend on how the rest of the work copes with the worst global health and economic crisis in about 100 years.
As for the safety of the workforce, it has to be ensured that all Covid-19 positive persons continue to remain away from work places and the entire value chain. ASSOCHAM has laid out a detailed SOP for operational issues. The SOP not only includes compulsory medical tests, but also strict adherence to a government approved protocol for social distancing in both operations and ferrying of workforce to and from their homes, keeping absolute hygiene in the premises. There has to be total prohibition of consumption of tobacco and other products like gutkha etc. All the guidelines like identification of dedicated Covid-19 hospitals near the work places as also the emergency medical support would be followed.
Sood said, ASSOCHAM report has identified the challenges to our manufacturing sectors, both internally and externally if gradual but consistent opening is not allowed. The sectors like food processing, automobile, textile, defence production, electronic hardware must be re-booted fast; or else China which has largely recovered from the Coronavirus blow would force out all other competitors including India. Besides, these sectors, including energy are highly employment oriented in nature with a huge multiplier along with the value chain.

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