New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked Union ministers to prepare plans to fight the economic impact of COVID-19 on a war footing and asserted that this crisis is an opportunity to boost the 'Make-in-India' initiative and reduce dependence on other countries.
Chairing the first meeting of the council of ministers after announcing a 21-day lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak via video-conferencing, Modi indicated a phased emergence from the lockdown and said that "a graded plan to slowly open departments, where hotspots aren't existing, should be made".
Talking about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, Modi said that the government must work on war footing to mitigate the impact, adding that the ministries should prepare a business continuity plan, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
Emphasising the need to strategise for the emergent conditions once the lockdown ends, he asked the ministers to prepare a list of ten major decisions and ten priority areas of focus while at the same time identify and implement pending reforms in their ministries. "Ministries should prepare a Business Continuity Plan and be ready to fight the economic impact of COVID-19 on a war footing. The crisis is also an opportunity to boost Make in India and reduce dependence on other countries," Modi told the ministers, according to the statement.
Highlighting the impact on India's exports, he asked the ministers to submit actionable suggestions on boosting manufacturing and exports and ensure that new sectors and countries are added in India's export net.
Discussing the impact of COVID-19 on farmers and harvesting of crops, Modi asked the ministers to explore the use of innovative solutions like 'truck aggregators' on the lines of app-based cab services to connect farmers with mandis.
"Welfare of farmers is of high importance. The government would provide all possible help to farmers in the harvesting season," Modi said and suggested use of technology and encouraging exploration of innovative solutions in agriculture.
Modi also underlined the need to devise a strategy to ensure procurement of tribal products so that the source of income source of the indigenous tribal populace remains intact.
At the same time, Modi told ministers to maintain effective monitoring on supply and availability of food items, to check price rises and black marketing and ensure no crowding at public distribution system (PDS) centres. Laying emphasis on the effective implementation of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), Modi told ministers to continuously monitor and ensure that the benefits of it keep reaching the intended beneficiaries in a seamless manner.
PMGKY is a Rs 1.7-lakh crore financial package announced by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to minimise the impact of lockdown on economy and poor. Ministers should remain in touch with state and district authorities, provide solutions to emergent problems and formulate district-level micro plans to combat coronavirus, PM Modi stated.
Reiterating that lockdown measures and social distancing norms need to go hand in hand and hand, Modi told ministers to popularize Aarogya Setu app in the rural areas and grass-root institutions. The ministers provided feedback to the prime minister on the steps being taken to meet the challenges in tackling the impact of the pandemic and praised the initiative of lighting lamps, saying people from all corners of the country participated in it.