The Government of India has already identified the list of jobs and services deemed "essential" and, therefore, are not required to be in lockdown for the next few weeks. At present, there are several commodities scheduled under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, as essential drugs; fertilizer, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs, including edible oil seeds and oils etc.
Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has represented and highlighted the Non-Essential products/services which are an integral part of the manufacturing process of Essential products. Many of the food items including milk, edible oil, processed foods, medicines, daily use items like toothpaste, soaps are dependent on raw materials, packaging materials and transportation of these items from manufacturing units to the food/milk/oil manufacturing units.
ICC completely understand and appreciate the lockdown till 31st March. However, ICC feels the need for a clear definition of products and services to ensure smooth manufacturing and supply of Essential goods. Many Non-Essential products are necessary to ensure regular supply of Essential goods. It is important to keep these items easily available as right kind of packaging is key to hygiene and ample availability of quality food products. Else unsafe food products may find their way into the markets.
ICC further suggested to Government to identify key Non Essential products as in most cases, packaging materials, related chemicals, spare parts to run factories, trucks to move these non-essential goods etc. are important to manufacture and deliver essential goods. On an average, any manufacturing unit uses more than 100 consumables and raw materials to run our factories and it is complex to define all.
For example, If a unit does not get Packaging material, they cannot pack food items/milk and send to markets. Similarly card board is necessary for secondary packaging. The cardboard supplier need to get minimal manpower, paper and glue to manufacture. If a compressor, boiler, DG set, other equipment breaks down and Industry does not have spare parts available or service technicians available the factory will come to a grinding halt.
ICC has appealed to Government to find ways of extending the ‘support products and services list’ of Non-Essentials to ensure availability of Essentials. Such Units should be allowed to operate under strict protocols by putting in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and physical distancing.