The rules of the lockdown do not allow for bringing back stranded Indians and getting them held up at various airports, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said on Thursday, urging citizens abroad who want to return to be patient till May 3. The lockdown was imposed in the country from March 25 to April 14, but was extended to May 3 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Muraleedharan, speaking at a video conference session organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said his ministry was definitely concerned about Indians stranded abroad and was making efforts to bring them back at the earliest.
Asked about Indian students stuck in the US, Muraleedharan said Indian students were stranded across the globe from the Carribean to New Zealand and Australia in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Ministry of External Affairs is working on that. Of course everyone understands that the present situation where there is a lockdown...the spirit and rules of lockdown do not allow us to bring anyone to the country and then get them stranded in India at the airports," he said, highlighting that there was a travel ban between states, some districts and many hotspots were completely sealed.
"So I am expecting up to 3rd May, please be patient. We are definitely concerned about the situation of not only the students, but also many who have gone on tourist visas or on business visits, all those who are and are stranded," Muraleedharan said.
Speaking about the economic impact of COVID-19 and the steps taken by the Centre, he said the government is aware of the economic impact of the pandemic and hence, it has transitioned from "Jaan hai toh jahaan hai" to "Jaan bhi jahaan bhi", emphasizing the need to work on all frontiers.
"It is our duty to support the collective global efforts to mitigate disruptions in the global supply chains by increasing supplies of products where we have available capacity and to ramp up capacity where we can become market leaders," he said.
Muraleedharan advocated a two-fold strategy in the current scenario under which capacity must be built up especially in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, textiles, manufacturing and electronics where India could have some relative advantage over the rest of the world.
"This will help in reducing our over dependence on China for raw materials as well as for diversifying global supply chains by offering an alternative to the world," he said.
The second part of the strategy should be to partner with industries and businesses of other countries both through inward and outward foreign direct investment, the minister said.
This will help Indian businesses generate economic expertise, he said. Muraleedharan said nine ministries have been working on these lines and stand ready to assist Indian businesses in their strategies.
"One such opportunity lies in our healthcare sector. India can emerge as the healthcare hub of the world in the near, medium to the long term for the development of hospitals and provisioning of equipment and supplies like PPE, ventilators etc, as well as for training of healthcare professionals," he said.
The government has set aside Rs 10,000 crore for shifting the entire manufacturing supply chains for pharmaceuticals to India and to boost domestic manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
In line with the government's vision towards enhanced economic development, the MEA is already pursuing a multi-pronged effort to improve India's global bilateral trade and regional connectivity.
"These efforts hold greater importance in post pandemic times. The MEA will be working with missions and posts to promote the 3Ts -- trade tourism and technology into India," Muraleedharan said, asserting that efforts are on for ramping up exports.
"COVID-19 is shaping to be the first major disruption in the global economy since the 2008 financial crisis," he said.
"Let me assure you that the government of India has not only been proactive but also pre-emptive in its strategy in controlling the pandemic. That is why a lockdown has been in force when India was in the early stages of the outbreak," Muraleedharan said.
The government's relief measures are focussed on protecting the vulnerable sections of the population by employing targeted relief measures , including food security and cash transfers, he said.
"We have also announced measures on working capital support, loan restructuring and credit term alteration, and stimulus to increase spending power of consumers to assist Indian companies specially MSME," Muraleedharan said.
The RBI has also announced a slew of measures to ensure adequate liquidity in the system, he added.