After the initial applause for the nationwide lockdown, pressure is now building on the Narendra Modi government to ease it at the earliest to enable factories restart their operations.
Even as the government repeatedly assured people that there would be no dearth of supplies of essential items, industries are finding it difficult to keep pace with a full national lockdown of three weeks. Indian exporters have been brutally impacted because of the lockdown at a time when demand surged from European countries and the US, which are amid a crisis-like situation due to the massive spread of the novel coronavirus. Worse, a chunk of this export businesses is gradually shifting to China.
An exporter of engineering goods and textile products said that his goods are held up at different locations in the country as it has not been possible for him to reach the ports.
“We should have been able to cash in on this situation but instead we are locked up and unable to export them their requirements. We are not only losing business but the entire chunk is shifting to China, which is now operating normally,” the exporter said.
Federation of Indian Export Organizations president Sharad Kumar Saraf said that the total lockdown was severely hampering export businesses and that the government must consider allowing factories and offices to operate with 50 per cent staff-force.
“There is no workforce for loading and packing. Factories are closed and there is no labor. There will be a huge demand-supply gap. How would you ensure supply of goods?” added another proprietor of mid-sized business house supplying soaps and detergent said.
Meanwhile, economic activities in China, which was the epicentre of the deadly disease, have restarted as most places came out of a lock down. Despite over 80,000 COVID-19 cases being reported in China, it did not impose a full lockdown. Neither the US nor the other coronavirus-impacted countries in Europe have imposed a total lockdown.
A State Bank of India report suggested that the total cost of the lockdown could be Rs 8.03 lakh crore.
This opportunity should have been utilized by the Modi government to spruce up its flagship Make in India programme.
Analysts also said that the large-scale migration of labor force from the urban centres and other industrial towns back to the rural areas will create a huge shortfall of skilled workers immediately after factories and work spaces open up.
The lockdown has started showing its baneful effect on the economy..