West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said her government is exploring the option of granting a partial relaxation to the transport sector and allowing some industries to operate with a small workforce amid the ongoing lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
After a meeting with trade and industry representatives, Banerjee said the state government is contemplating the idea of minimal transportation like giving a go-ahead to taxis to hit the streets again, but carrying not more than four persons, including the driver.
“We have already allowed home delivery of food and other goods…. Some kind of transportation is needed (for the movement of various goods) but not in a mass manner. “But whatever we do, it has to be done honouring the lockdown for the sake of human lives,” she said.
The state government is also thinking of allowing certain industries to operate with a small number of workers inside factories, Banerjee said, adding, “Hand sanitisers and masks should be made compulsory for them.” She urged corporates and industry bodies to support the markets in various parts of the city in maintaining social distancing and provide hand sanitiser to the people visiting those areas.
The chief minister said the small-scale industries of the state should engage in the manufacture of hand sanitiser and washable cloth masks. She also assured the industry representatives that the deadline for government licenses will be extended from March 31 to June 30.
“The process of obtaining such licenses will also be made online,” the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo said.
Regarding the tea industry, she said her government has decided to allow the tea gardens to reopen initially with a 15-per cent workforce, as it is required to prune the bushes, which have grown old due to the closure. Operating with a lesser workforce will help maintain social distancing, she added.
On the financial relief measures sought by certain sections of the industry, Banerjee said, “Our hands are tied. We have to repay a large amount every year towards central government loans. It is not possible to give any concession like relief on electricity duty.” Such concessions can only be provided by the Centre, she added.