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Adding to lockdown relaxations, Govt allows forest produce harvesting, NBFC operations

The Ministry of Home Affairs has said that under the head of agriculture and horticulture, “collection, harvesting and processing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP)/ Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) by Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers in forest areas” will be allowed.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi |
April 17, 2020 5:42:16 pm
india lockdown, india lockdown extension, coronavirus lockdown extension, covid 19, lockdown relaxations, coronavirus news, latest news Notably, in the April 15 guidelines while large-scale relaxation had been granted for farming activities in the rural sector, forest produce had not been mentioned specifically.

A day after issuing detailed guidelines for phase II of the Covid-19 lockdown till May 3, the Centre has issued an addendum to its April 15 instructions allowing certain more activities in sectors of agriculture, banking and rural construction.

In an addendum issued on April 16, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said that under the head of agriculture and horticulture, “Collection, harvesting and processing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP)/ Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) by Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers in forest areas” will be allowed. Under the head of “Plantation”, it has further allowed sowing, harvesting, processing, packaging, sale and marketing of “Bamboo, Coconut, Arecanut, Cocoa, Spices”.

Notably, in the April 15 guidelines while large-scale relaxation had been granted for farming activities in the rural sector, forest produce had not been mentioned specifically. Also, while tea, coffee and rubber plantation had been made part of exemptions, several other categories were missing.

“There is a constant dialogue between the states and the Centre along with various departments of the central government. Based on concerns of the states and suggestion of union ministries, new exemptions are added from time to time. We hope this new addendum will help the tribal people across the country,” an MHA official said.

In category of “construction activities in rural areas” as exempted under the lockdown, the government has added “water supply and sanitation; laying/erection of power transmission lines and laying of telecom optical fibre and cable along with related activities”.

In the April 15 guidelines, under the head of construction, the Centre had allowed activities associated with “roads, irrigation projects, buildings and all kinds of industrial projects including MSMEs, in rural areas” apart from “renewable energy projects” and “brick kilns”.

In the banking sector, the Centre has added Non-Banking financial Institutions (NBFCs) including Housing Finance Companies (HFCs) and MICRO Finance Institutions (NBFC-MFls) “with bare minimum staff”. It has also allowed Cooperative Credit Societies to function.

The Centre had not granted any exemption to NBFCs and Micro Finance institutions in its previous guidelines. Even banks are allowed to function as per “normal working hours till disbursal of DBT cash transfer is complete. Apart from this cash management agencies and IT vendors for banking operations have been allowed.

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