The government may come out with a clear definition of essential and non-essential supplies made by e-commerce companies after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told industry captains that inconsistencies in classification of items across states will be looked into, sources said. At a meeting she had with industry captains associated with FICCI, Sitharaman was told that there exist inconsistencies across states on what qualifies as essential and what is non-essential supplies by e-commerce companies. To this remarked that this was a fit case for examination and she would take the matter to group of ministers, sources with knowledge of the deliberations at the meeting said.
The finance ministry and FICCI did not immediately comment on the issue. Several states have imposed local lockdowns to control the fresh wave of coronavirus infections. They have allowed only essential deliveries by e-commerce companies but the list of such items varies with a state even allowing home delivery of liquor in the essential items. Addressing representatives of industry chambers CII and FICCI, Sitharaman urged the industry to wait and watch for the next few days to assess the situation amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and also assured India Inc of full government support. With the five-fold strategy adopted in handling the COVID-19 cases i.e., test, track, treat, COVID-19 protocols and vaccination there may be a positive change in the way the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is moving. “Industry is watching out and I would want you (industry) to keenly observe what is going on and we are together with the industry in (fighting) this (pandemic). “I am sure all of us together will understand how best to now ramp up and sustain the growth momentum which all of us are keen to see between the last quarter and this quarter,” she added.
She further said sectors like hospitality, aviation, travel, tourism and hotels faced great difficulty since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have extended the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECGLS 2.0) for these sectors, and I will ensure the efficiency with which it was performing last year,” she said. Sitharaman praised the Indian Industry for its extreme forbearance, patience and perseverance, and described it with Japanese word ‘Gamanzuyoi’. Speaking on the oxygen supply, the finance minister said the supply has been neatly mapped and new permissions have been given particularly for the hard-stressed 12 states (Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Chhattisgarh, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala). The supply is being monitored at a district level along with reviews which are being undertaken and for the next 15 days, they will be closely monitored. “The government has exempted all inter-state movement of oxygen tankers, exempted from registration and permits, they can operate round-the-clock, and cylinder filling plants are operating 24 hours to fill the gaps with necessary safeguards,” she said.
She expressed hope that as soon as the medical oxygen demand is met, the industry would also get the necessary supply of oxygen since the import of medical oxygen has been allowed. Sitharaman shared details of initiatives to help ramp up capacity of Remdesivir from 36 lakh vials per month to 78 lakh vials per month. She added that rapid clearances for new capacities, stopping exports, stopping the exports of APIs and formulations used in the manufacture of this life saving drug, and allowing EoUs and manufacturers located in SEZs to also sell in the domestic market are being taken. Elaborating on the recent announcements on the vaccination, the finance minister said suggestions from various quarters on opening up of the vaccination to all adults, allowing industry to vaccinate its employees and their families and allowing vaccine imports have all been accepted in the policy. Sitharaman emphasised on the need for adopting micro-containment strategy in dealing with the second surge of the pandemic and acknowledged that the deliberations with CII had helped shaped this strategy. Explaining the rationale, she said that unlike last time, “we now have important tools such as vaccines and medicines, to deal with the pandemic”.