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Nirmala Sitharaman Meets PM Amid Extended Lockdown, Concerns Over Economy

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid the extended lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the state of the economy as several sectors are not running in their full capacity.

Some industries in rural areas, e-commerce, information technology (IT) and farming will be allowed after April 20, the government said on Wednesday in new guidelines a day after PM Modi extended the nationwide coronavirus lockdown till May 3 and said restrictions would be relaxed after a week in the least infected parts of India.

The government says it will also allow the construction of roads and buildings in rural areas and the manufacture of IT hardware to reduce the distress of millions during a prolonged lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The inter-state transport of goods, essential and non-essential items, will be allowed after April 20. Highway dhabas, truck repair shops and call centres for government activities can reopen from April 20. So can manufacturing units of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

Manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control will be allowed in special economic zones, industrial estates and industrial townships after implementation of SOP (standard operating procedure) for social distancing. Manufacture of IT hardware and of essential goods and packaging can resume.

The centre last month announced a financial package for those hardest hit by the pandemic. "It is our firm resolve that the poor and vulnerable get all possible help to cope with the testing times," PM Modi had said while announcing the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package, a Rs 1.75 lakh crore stimulus that included free food grain and cooking gas to the poor for three months, and cash doles to women and senior citizens.

The manufacturing sector that was already under stress has been hit hard, so is banking. Financial institutions have been told to defer EMIs by three months due to the pandemic. Several firms across sectors have announced pay cuts and reduced their workforce.

A report by Bloomberg said the country's economy may be heading for its first full-year contraction in more than four decades after PM Modi extended the world's biggest lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

(Inputs and image from

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