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Friday, September 17, 2021

‘Need to open colleges, relax mall restrictions’: Sudhir Mehta, MCCIA president

Sudhir Mehta, the chairman of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) spoke to The Indian Express about the ground situation and the way forward

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune |
Updated: September 1, 2021 8:03:01 am
Sudhir Mehta, the chairman of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture(MCCIA)

As the government eases Covid-19 restrictions, life is fast getting back to normal in Pune. With industrial activities almost back to pre-Covid pace, what remains to be done is easing of restrictions in retail sector, and opening up of educational colleges. Sudhir Mehta, the chairman of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), spoke to The Indian Express about the ground situation in the city, and the way forward

With most restrictions gone, how is the industrial scenario in Pune? Has industrial activities returned to pre-Covid levels?

Restrictions on the manufacturing sector have been eased out almost 100 per cent. Thus, industrial activities have almost reached their normal levels. What we are concerned about is the restrictions on retail sector and educational institutes. On the one hand, we have night clubs and bars operating where masking in minimal and on the other hand, malls have restricted entry.

Adherence to mask and social distancing in malls is much stricter. The restrictions on them at present, which entail entry only to fully vaccinated persons, do not make sense.

Also, we need to reopen the colleges as fast as possible. If not schools, the colleges have to open fast. We must remember the students have not been to college for almost one-and-a-half years. Potential employers would be concerned about hiring people who never been to college and just have a paper degree.

Most students are vaccinated and are meeting their friends and going (to other) places… It just makes sense to get them back to college as soon as possible.

At a later date, we need to open multiplexes and cinema halls with proper measures. Maharashtra is the only state where they are closed; all other states have allowed them to re-open.

International travel continues to be banned apart from some specific routes and arrangements. How has it affected business and industries?

Of course, the continued suspension of international fights does not make sense. If anything, it is leading to the airlines hiking their fares, and crowding in the few and far between flights that are allowed. With a large portion of the population getting vaccinated, we must lift the ban on scheduled international flights.

Let supply and demand determine the air travel — this will not only ease the crowding in aircraft but also cool down ticket prices. The continued ban on international travel has affected business also. We are unable to send service engineers on-site as and when necessary. We must realise that Covid-19 would continue to come in waves, but now we need to learn to live with the virus.

Are you satisfied with the ongoing vaccination rate and the availability of vaccines?

Availability of vaccines is not a big problem now. Vaccines are available both in private and government centres. Those who can afford should pay for their doses while the free doses should be reserved for those who can’t. Now it is up to the people to get vaccinated. We have to remember that vaccination is the only way we can stop the disease from becoming life-threatening.

MCCIA had earlier conducted a special drive to vaccinate people; we will soon be undertaking a major drive wherein 5 lakh doses have been donated by the Serum Institute of India.

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What does the doctors and experts on your platform say about the possibility of a third wave?

As I said earlier, waves of Covid-19 will continue to come at intervals. Unlike the second wave, I am not unduly worried about the third wave. We are well prepared in terms of hospitals, doctors, medicines, oxygen etc. What we need to do is to speed up vaccination as much as we can.

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