Government clarifies MHA order, no penalty for management of industrial establishments

The letter requests all State/UT Governments to apprise industrial establishments and field offices about the guidelines of lockdown measures, but cautions that they shouldn’t be used to harass the management of any manufacturing/commercial establishment
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The letter requests all State/UT Governments to apprise industrial establishments and field offices about the guidelines of lockdown measures but cautions that they shouldn’t be used to harass the management of any manufacturing/ commercial establishment

The Secretary of Government of India has issued a letter clarifying that there is no penal provision for the management of any manufacturing/ commercial establishments in the consolidated revised guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), order dated April 15, 2020. The MHA order comprises consolidated revised guidelines with regard to penal provisions, for ministries/ departments of the Government of India, State/UT authorities on the measures for containment of COVID-19 in the country during the extended lockdown until May 3, 2020.

Now, the government has issued a letter which mentions that some apprehensions based on a wrong interpretation of the guidelines have been raised in the media and by some companies with manufacturing facilities. Many believed that States may take legal action, including imprisonment of the CEO if COVID-19 positive employees are found in the factory. Moreover, the premises of the factory would be sealed for three months for non-compliance of precautionary measures.
However, the government has clarified that there is no such clause in the consolidated revised guidelines and therefore there is no basis for such misplaced apprehensions. It also informs that the factory may be closed down for two days and will be allowed to restart after full compliance.

This comes as a relief to the industry. There was a lot of apprehension on the MHA order and most of the companies opted to wait till May 3, 2020, to continue their due to certain legal provisions. And, at the state levels, several industry associations had also expressed their concerns and had opted to stop production activities.

B R Sikri, Chairman, Federation of Pharma Entrepreneurs (FOPE) and VP, Bulk Drug Manufacturers Association (BDMA) said, “We appreciate the clarification given by the government on the revised guidelines issued by the MHA dated April 15, 2020, for the purpose of restarting industries in Green and Orange zones. Due to misinterpretation of the penal provision in the order, the industry was reluctant about continuing operations, however, with the clarification, the ambiguity in the given guidelines have been cleared. The industry will adhere with specified norms of the revised guidelines.”

Vinod Kalani, President, Rajasthan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, (Jaipur) and Working President, Federation of Pharma Entrepreneurs (FOPE) said, “We, in the pharma industry, really appreciate the quick action taken to resolve the issues faced by the industry in these difficult times. Such timely solutions are really helping the units working on the ground and facing all kinds of challenges. Our thanks to the MHA and the Government of India. We, in the pharma industry, are taking care of our workforce in the best possible manner, as we understand that they are nothing less than COVID-19 warriors to attend their work in such difficult circumstances.”

Harish Jain, Secretary, Karnataka Drugs and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association said, “It is a welcome and timely development. The clarification has removed the apprehensions which otherwise would have led to companies discontinuing operations. It is important that these clarifications should percolate down to the last man in the official hierarchy, in letter and spirit. Manufacture of drugs, medicine and allied products should be encouraged to continue uninterrupted in the larger national interest.”

Dr Viranchi Shah, National Vice President, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IMA-GSB) said, “This clarification will boost the confidence of a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses and will prompt more to start work. Earlier there were some apprehensions in minds of many MSMEs, this has cleared the doubts. We appreciate the clarification.”

The letter states that appropriate safeguards at workplaces have been prescribed in the National Directives and SOPs mentioned, and commercial establishments are required to follow the given guidelines. But, it also clarifies that the consolidated revised guidelines dated April 15, 2020, does not curtail the exemption that already provided earlier unless the exempted activity falls within a containment zone. Therefore, no separate/ fresh permissions are required from authorities for industries already permitted to operate prior to April 15, 2020, in areas falling outside containment zones.

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BR SikriFOPEHarish JainMHArevised MHA guidelinesSecretary of Government of IndiaViranchi Shah
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