As businesses, especially the micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), gear up to gradual opening up from today, the stringent guidelines outlined by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) could hurt their operations and revenues further, even as there is a sense of relief.
Multiple sources said that companies will have to bear a “significant” compliance cost on account of these new norms. That apart, promoters and entrepreneurs have been gripped with confusion and anxiety over consequences and possible penalty in case of any slippage in adhering to these rules. Further, there are concerns over implications if any of their employees is found to be Covid-19 positive at a later stage.
“No one knows if there will be any penalty or the kind of steps that will be taken in case a worker gets infected, whether the factory will be once again shut down or will all the staff members be quarantined for weeks are some of the questions which are bothering many promoters of MSMEs,” an industry representative said.
Anil Bhardwaj, secretary general, Federation of Indian Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises (FISME), said that it will take a few months before factories and other businesses resume normal operations. “At this point there is no demand and we also need to understand how to source raw materials,” Bhardwaj said. It is also not clear if workers including the daily wage earners and laborers would report back to work immediately.
Bhardwaj said that the picture remains uncertain. “We will be in a better position to understand the exact situation only after April 20,” he added.
The government in its detailed guidelines said that activities in several key sectors such as agriculture, mining, construction, oil and gas, coal and MSME will be allowed to restart from April 20 even as the national lockdown is slated to continue till May 3.
“All work places shall have adequate arrangements for temperature screening and provide sanitizers at convenient places,” the MHA said, adding that work places must have a gap of one hour between shifts. Further, lunch breaks of staff will have to be staggered to ensure social distancing. The guidelines have even specified that not more than two to four people should be allowed to enter a lift at the same time.
“You need micro management for this and we are not sure whether they are practically possible,” said a mid-sized exporter.
There is also fear over job loss as the MHA has advised people who are above 65 years of age and those persons with co-morbidities to work from home. “I am over 58 years and have just joined the organization, I am worried whether I will be retained as there is an age bias, though I understand it is being done with the right intent,” an employee engaged with an SME said..