Covid-19: Disruptions and a dilemma for Essential goods Manufacturers in India

In response to the fast spreading COVID-19, the Govt of India has been taking several steps to mitigate the problem. With other efforts not producing the desired results, the federal govt and many states as well, have now taken drastic steps, almost bordering on a complete lockdown. Among other actions, such steps are aimed mainly at reducing person-to-person contact by restricting the movement of people and goods. Recognising the need of the hour, exemptions have been given to manufacturers and distributors of essential goods. Cooking oil, flour, sugar, pulses, etc have been classified as essential commodities.

Although such an exemption has been provided for cooking oil, practical challenges crop up, restricting the movement of such goods, leading to challenges to the manufacturers. They face issues of availability of labour for such activities. Labour is not willing to go to work for fear of being harassed on the way to work. There have been instances of people being stopped at road blocks and being taken to task. Besides, they also face issues of lack of transport to commute to and from work. Manufacturers have, in some instances, been willing to offer transportation but the workers are hesitant to step out.

Certain activities, such as packing of goods, loading and movement are all labour intensive. Although there is raw material available for production, such labour shortages may force some of the major importers of vegetable oils and manufacturers of cooking oils to cease their operations. Some as early as within the next 24 hours. Efforts are being made by them to facilitate the movement of the required workforce but results are yet to be seen.

A similar dilemma also confronts certain other sectors. The IHPCIA is making a representation to the Govt to include cleaning products, including hygiene and health care products in the list of Essential goods as they have a direct impact on the health and hygiene of all citizens.

There are difficult times. All are trying to chip in to support the Govt initiatives but challenges abound.

Prepared by: Bhavna Shah

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