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Punitive action for corona among staff misinterpreted: MHA

“There should be no criminality in COVID management in industry. We will take it to the highest level,” Labour Secretary Heeralal Samariya said during a webinar in response to similar concerns raised by members of industry association FICCI.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | April 23, 2020 3:07:02 am
Industry representatives said that employers should not be held responsible if any employee tests positive for coronavirus.

In a move to assuage fears raised by industrial units, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday said that punitive measures in its guidelines to allow some industries to restart operations with conditions have been misinterpreted.

The clarification follows representations by various industry and export associations to clarify the provisions.

While the Press Information Bureau called these apprehensions to be “wrong and incorrect”, as provisions were precautionary in nature, the MHA’s official handle tweeted, “MHA Guidelines misinterpreted. Penalties under DM (Disaster Management) Act ‘05 applicable if offence occurs with consent, cognisance or negligence of employer.”

Industry representatives said that employers should not be held responsible if any employee tests positive for coronavirus.

“…If carried out as a randomised inspection with transparency and submission of report, monitoring could be effective without being heavy-handed,” CII director-general Chandrajit Banerjee said. “At the same time…CII suggests that it would not be correct to hold employers culpable in case COVID-positive cases are found among employees, as it is found that infections can spread even through asymptomatic carriers.”

“There should be no criminality in COVID management in industry. We will take it to the highest level,” Labour Secretary Heeralal Samariya said during a webinar in response to similar concerns raised by members of industry association FICCI.

Ravi Sehgal, chairman, Engineering Export Promotion Council of India, said that while the problem is not at the ministry-level in Delhi, “everything boils down to the state level and their interpretation of the law and rules. The MHA needs to call all state chief secretaries and form a modulus common to all of India.”

The Indian Express had on April 21 reported that firms in pockets across the country had raised red flags over the interpretation of punitive measures for violation of safety procedures, especially if workers test positive for COVID-19 despite the firms following safety and sanitisation procedures.

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