Almost half of the industries which have been allowed to reopen still face hurdles in obtaining permits to function and passes for employees, according to a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) survey. Over 60% of surveyed companies also said movement of inputs and finished goods is still disrupted.
The industry group demanded that businesses should be allowed to function without need of permits in non-containment areas, with workers allowed to commute to work in their own vehicles on the basis of a letter issued by the employer without need of a government pass.
The Centre has slowly been easing restrictions, first allowing the reopening of essential sector businesses and then permitted industries located in rural areas, as well as certain sectors including construction, information technology and hardware, to begin work subject to certain restrictions.
Nationwide, 180 companies participated in the CII survey, which was conducted on April 23 and 24, a few days after the latest round of relaxations came into effect on April 20.
Asked whether permits to operate were easily available for the sectors which were allowed to function, 19% of companies said permits were not available to them, while 27% said they had faced delays.
CII suggested that permits may be granted on a self-certification basis by State governments, at least in areas which are not hotspots of infection.
Difficulties in transport — of both men and materials — have created a major bottleneck. Workers at functional units require passes from the government to move around. Only 36% of respondents said passes were readily provided, and 67% said the daily commute was problematic.
In fact, the unavailability of workers or their inability to travel to the workplace was the single largest reason that prevented businesses from operating, the survey showed. CII suggested that employees be allowed to use their own private vehicles, and that government passes should be replaced by company letters.
Only 15% of companies said that movement of raw materials and finished goods was taking place smoothly. Almost 40% of companies faced delays and disruptions, while 23% said such movement was not taking place at all.
Even those businesses which have restarted work are still functioning at partial strength. Only 10% of plants were functioning at more than 50% of their full capacity, while only 9% of firms have more than half their workers back on site.
“The return of workers is critical to commencing business operations. Timely and effective transport and safety strategies are imperative to ensure that workers have the confidence to return to workplaces as well as commute on a daily basis,” said CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee.
Almost 70% of respondents expressed some fear that they would face criminal cases if any of their workers tested positive for the virus, despite following safety protocols. The Home Ministry has issued clarifications on this issue, after complaints from businesses.