Coronavirus (COVID-19): ON Sunday, a late evening defence ministry flight ferrying MoS Shripad Naik —from New Delhi to Goa, also ferried two consignments, now identified as a “crucial” catalyst in opening Goa’s economy; sealed packets of good quality thermal guns, a requisite for opening industries under Covid Lockdown.
“All this becomes relevant. Without them these industrial units wouldn’t be allowed to function,” said a top official in the government. “It’s simple details like this, providing shoulders where possible, as we attempt in opening industries. Then a thermal gun becomes very, very crucial aspect for running an economy.”
While 1,000 went towards government run essential services, another 400 went to industrial units across 24 estates in Goa, with more batches expected. With Goa’s third biggest GDP (Goa’s gross GDP increased by 13.64 per cent to Rs 66,781 crore for the fiscal ended March 2019, according to quick estimates) from its industries, and micro, small and medium enterprises, now that mining and tourism look bleak — the government and industry bodies are working closely to get the “beast working”.
By Monday, a google sheet also went live data shared with the office of the Collector — on one end industrial units fed details of their employees and vehicle number, with the collector’s office facilitating coded vehicle pass, another MHA guideline requirement. By Saturday night it stood at 20,000 vehicle permits — including motor bikes, cars and buses. Another live sheet looked for registration with details of industrial units intending to open their shutters with their requirements. “1,200 have so far opened in the second phase. We already have big pharmaceutical industries working since two weeks, so in that sense we are using the same mechanisms that were used by them to exit lockdown,” said Damodar Kochkar, 54, President, Goa State Industries Association. Goa accounts for 11 per cent of India’s Pharma exports with the now iconic anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine also one of the exports. Of the big 75 licenses drug manufacturers, 35 including big Pharma companies like Cipla, Sanofi, Glenmark, Ranbaxy, Pfizer have their manufacturing units in Goa. “Maharashtra the industries are yet to open, down south too. We are in touch with counterparts. They are still in contaminated zones and have many restrictions that they cannot fulfill. We are aware that the country is watching. They are going to see how systems are being placed and if they work. Being one of the first states to open its industries also comes with responsibilities.”
Since the last one week along with various commerce branches have made a representation to the government. “We made an appeal. The virus is not leaving anytime soon. The vaccine too will take at least a year or two. Are we to shut industries till then. It cannot be the solution. It was only to buy time. Now that too is over,” Kochkar adds. His company makes the exterior heavy built frames typically sourced by state buses. A tender that had come just before the lockdown has been pulled back. Pradip Da Costa, 54, Vice President of the Verna Industrial estates which houses multinationals including give big Pharma companies says, “In a way the pressure to open up these industries had begun round April 1, when other states pushed the Centre to begin Goa, as they needed the drugs. Further, the exports. We now have a lot of MSMEs too which are opening. The teething problems exist. For now, it’s about getting the employees, both skilled and unskilled to the estate. The MHA guideline says one two in a four wheeler, which is not feasible as today we started getting complaints that this means more expenditure when the salary cuts loom. The government has said they will put this to MHA. For now we have a coded permit, with the number of industrial estate and unit and individual marked which allows them to travel under lockdown with Goa police checking when needed. Interstate is allowed. We are losing staff who come from border villages but then that’s going to happen.” According to Da Costa, WhatsApp which was earlier used to push companies to pay contractors — with the wages, so that it reaches the labourers, is now being used to put bunch of daily instructions. “One of the crucial aspects of the lockdown exits is sanitation and usage of disinfectants. We are working on that with companies advised to ensure good practices. We are also reminding them thrice a day on the WhatsApp groups with advisories on SOPs which they can further fine tune based on scale and requirements.”
The industries meanwhile have also put forward a proposal to the government — Lockdown Wage Subsidy Scheme for the MSMEs in Goa for a minimum of three months from April 1, waiver of fixed charges and duty on electricity consumption, clear pending dues with various government undertakings and departments, a short term financial package in the form of two year short term loan. The letter given to the government further adds that “absenteeism of work during lockdown during coronavirus epidemic should be considered due to the illness”, making the person eligible for ESIC sickness benefits. Further, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Goa chapter has also given a 100 day roadmap to the government on opening up the industries in a staggered manner. According to officials, it’s now the second phase that needs urgent attention after life, the livelihoods.
Goa has 3,000 industrial units in 24 estates, which according to Goa Government officials also helped. “Unlike other states, there the units are concentrated within these estates making it easier to enforce SOPs and provide support.”