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To deal with coronavirus outbreak, companies seek easier labour norms, faster green approval

These were some of the measures suggested by the representatives of India Inc in a meeting on Tuesday with the FM to address concerns regarding supply disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China. At the meeting, the quarantine period as well as the paperwork for goods being shipped into the country was also flagged.

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Last Updated: Feb 19, 2020, 11.40 AM IST
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At the meeting, the quarantine period as well as the paperwork for goods being shipped into the country was also flagged by many representatives.
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(This story originally appeared in on Feb 19, 2020)
NEW DELHI: The corporate sector’s wishlist to deal with supply disruption caused by the coronavirus go beyond customs duty cuts and include a reduction in the 14-day quarantine period at the ports, relaxation in labour and environment regulations as well as more credit availability.

Sources, however, said the view on an across-the-board supply disruption for the pharma sector may be overstated. For instance, at a meeting of nearly 20 sectors on Tuesday, a Mylan executive told finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her team of officials that the international drug major did not depend on China for most of its active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) or basic chemicals. A government official said that Indian companies had the capacity to manufacture many of the APIs but were operating at lower capacity as it was cheaper to import them from across the border.

At the meeting, the quarantine period as well as the paperwork for goods being shipped into the country was also flagged by many representatives as a concern and there was a suggestion to airlift some of the basic drugs. Some business persons suggested that the quarantine period should be reduced to two days to aid the supply of raw material. There was a recommendation to ensure 24x7 operation at the ports along with a request to ease labour rules so that plants could operate in three shifts, which again means round-the-clock operations. Similarly, to ensure that pharma and other chemical manufacturers have flexibility, there was a suggestion to ease environmental rules to expand capacity quickly.

And, with the supply of inputs used by pharma, auto, solar and electronics getting impacted due to what threatens to be a pandemic, there were demands for customs duty cuts as prices of goods being shipped from other markets had shot up, a source present in the meeting told TOI. These sectors, businesses representatives said, have been hit the hardest. A Hero MotoCorp representative is learnt to have suggested that some automotive parts could be airlifted from China.

While government officials did not respond to the issues raised by industry, a commerce ministry officer indicated at the gathering that DGFT may lift restrictions on protective clothing. There was also a demand from the medical device industry to lift some of the export restrictions.

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