Government plans to resume some manufacturing amid shutdown: report

NEW DELHI: India plans to restart some manufacturing after April 15 to help offset a nation's economic damage, two government sources said, even as it considers extending the blockade.

The 21-day shutdown of the more than 1.3 billion people in India will end on Tuesday, but the government is expected to extend it until the end of the month, with a number of coronavirus cases increasing to 9,152 and the number of domestic deaths reaching at 308 on Monday.

One of the sources said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ordered some ministries to present plans to open some crucial industries as the livelihoods of the poor were affected.

The source said the government was considering allowing some operations to resume under the guidelines that were being developed.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industries did not reply to an email seeking comment. Chief government spokesman K S Dhatwalia declined to comment.

The sources, who spoke to Reuters on Sunday, asked not to be identified as the plans are still under discussion.

Separately, in a letter seen by Reuters, the industries ministry has recommended restarting some manufactures in the automobile, textile, defense, electronics and other sectors.

The ministry said in the letter, addressed to the home ministry, that this could be accomplished through reduced shifts with fewer staff to ensure social distancing.

We believe that some industries could afford reasonable safeguards as long as social distancing standards are maintained, said the second official, from the industries department.

The Interior Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office are likely to make a final decision on the recommendations this week, the sources said.

The sources also said that other ministries will soon present plans to allow partial resumption in other sectors.

India's economy, which was already growing at its slowest pace in six years before the coronavirus started, will take a big hit amid the shutdown, say economists, warning that unemployment could hit record levels.

The closure caused many thousands of daily salaried workers to lose their jobs in the cities and leave to return to their homes, increasing the risk of spreading the coronavirus to the countryside.