'Industries may resume soon in areas not hit by virus'

Coronavirus lockdown: Industries may resume soon in areas not hit by COVID-19, says Sharad Pawar

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. (PTI Photo)

NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday said he is sure that steps will be taken soon to resume business activities in parts of Maharashtra which are not hit by COVID-19, to bring the state's economy on track and restore normalcy after the lockdown ends on May 3.

In his address via Facebook Live, Pawar said different decisions on movement restrictions may be taken in connection with coronavirus hotspots like Mumbai and Pune.

Pawar said steps to relax curbs should be taken on the condition of adhering strictly to social distancing norms to keep the deadly coronavirus at bay.

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He expressed concern over the rise in number of COVID-19 cases in Mumbai, Pune, Malegaon, Aurangabad and other parts of Maharashtra, noting that the cases are mainly from densely-populated areas.

"The lockdown period will end on May 3. We are all ears towards what future steps Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) will announce. But I am sure, barring areas which are badly hit, steps will be taken to resume activities/businesses elsewhere (in areas not hit by COVID-19) soon," he said.

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Such instructions have been given to district collectors and care will be taken to restore normalcy, the former Union minister said.

Noting that the state is facing an economic crisis, Pawar said there is a need to resume operations of factories/ industries and people need to go to work.

"Enough of sitting inside. It needs to be seen how factories resume operations and steps are taken to bring the economy back on track, he added.

The veteran leader said the Maharashtra government also wants industries to resume operations as factories and industries are important for (the growth of) the state.

He, however, cautioned people to not defy social distancing norms even if restrictions on movement are relaxed after May 3 in certain areas.

Pawar said the lockdown has affected Maharashtra's economy badly and it is set to suffer in terms of revenue income collection during the ongoing fiscal.

He said as per the 2020-21 budget estimates, the Maharashtra government was expected to get around Rs 3.47 lakh crore revenue income.

But, due to the economic activities coming to a halt in the state following the lockdown, a revenue deficit of Rs 1.40 lakh crore, or loss of 40 per cent, is expected, he said.

"This will have a bearing on the developmental works of the state. So, there is a health crisis and also an economic crisis, Pawar said.

Referring to the letter he wrote to Modi a few days back to apprise the prime minister about the economic situation, Pawar said both the Centre and state governments should together find a way to overcome the difficult times.

He said the Centre should strengthen the states economically to overcome the present challenge.

Pawar also talked about the agrarian distress triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak, and called for taking measures like restructuring farm and crop loans, giving concessions in payment of interest rates by farmers.

The interest rate on crop loans should be brought down to zero to help peasants, he added.

Pawar also demanded steps to address the issue of unemployment resulting from the lockdown.

He praised the state machinery, particularly doctors, nurses and policemen, for working hard to fight COVID-19.

Expressing concern over the attacks on doctors and policemen, he said strict action will be initiated against those engaged in such acts.