Industry leaders say trying to balance lives and livelihoods amid Covid, can’t keep pumping in money

The summit came a day after India reported 2.61 lakh Covid cases and 1,501 deaths

We are trying to balance lives and livelihoods amid the Covid-19 crisis, the leaders of India Inc said at the ongoing NDTV Solutions Summit, while emphasizing that one can’t keep pumping money into the economy. “We are trying to balance lives and livelihoods. We are not US or Europe; We cannot keep pumping money in,” Industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said at the summit, which came a day after India reported a record 2.61 lakh new Covid cases and 1,501 deaths.

“Lockdown is not a solution in the present times. Quick action must be taken by the government. The vaccination drive must be accelerated and vaccines should be opened to all age groups,” Uday Kotak, MD and CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank and President of CII said at the Solutions Summit.

Referring to the need for decentralisation in Covid management, Uday Kotak said, “On one hand, there are advantages of decentralisation and on the other, there is risk of chaos. We need to find a balance. This can only happen if India functions as one seamless country by going beyond political differences.” Mr Kotak drew attention to the fact that most large corporations have come forward to help with oxygen supplies.

“The government should do whatever it takes to ramp up production, supply and distribution of vaccines, oxygen, etc,” Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII said. Partnership and bold steps are needed to cut around red-tape, Mr Banerjee emphasized, saying, “production of whatever is required should be ramped up; we need to do whatever it takes to address the situation at hand”.

Speaking on how industry could do its part and specifically referring to the supply of oxygen, TV Narendran, CEO and MD, Tata Steel, said, “The bottleneck is not the supply of oxygen, but how it is transported. Optimisation is the key.”

The industry body called for an increase in vaccine supply and strict adherence to social distancing norms because a substantial part of the workforce is below 45. Moreover, it suggested a ban on super spreader events and restricting social gatherings / meetings to 10 participants. It went on to assure the government of whatever help is needed and possible to tide over the Covid situation.

Uday Kotak outlined a Covid strategy ‘focussed on the here and now” – the need to make provisions for bed capacity, medicine capacity, vaccination and oxygen. He said, in light of the recent revelations that the virus may be airborne, that we are all grappling and groping in the dark about the virus. Any containment measures and restrictions should therefore be based on expert opinions on hospital capacity availability and caseload management, Mr Kotak said.

Decisions should be taken only after carefully considering the consequences, so as to ensure that we as a country do not lose more lives through loss of livelihoods, Mr Kotak concluded.

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