Covid-hit Karnataka trade and industry seeks relief package

Reeling under heavy losses due to Covid-induced extended lockdown and restrictions, the Karnataka trade and industry on Thursday sought a special relief package of Rs 20,000 crore from the state government to recover and survive from the pandemic.

“The trade and industry across the state incurred a Rs 75,000 crore loss due to prolonged lockdown and restrictions, imposed since April to contain the pandemic’s second wave,” Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) President Perikal Sundar said in a statement here.

Even as trade and industry were recovering with great difficulty from the fallout of Covid’s first wave last year, he said the devastation caused by the second wave since March has resulted in huge losses due to suspension of economic activity across the state.

“All our activities came to a standstill over the last 2 months though restrictions have been relaxed in 19 districts across the state since June 14,” said Sundar.

In a joint representation to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, the apex trade and industry body sought exemption from fixed charges on power to industries.

“We have sought 50 per cent rebate on property tax and licence fee for 2 years, interest subvention on loans from banks for 6 months and reimbursement of salaries and wages for 3 months,” said Sundar.

The apex body said the state and central governments have collected Rs 84,000 crore from the trade and industry as Goods and Services Tax (GST), Rs 1,20,000 crore as income tax, Rs 22,851 crore as excise from liquor sales and Rs 16,000 crore from sale of petrol and diesel since the pandemic struck last March.

“As the pandemic and the lockdowns during the two waves disrupted our activities and resulted in mounting loss of business and jobs, the state should suspend and defer renewal of licences and permits for one year for us to recover and sustain livelihood,” Sundar said.

With the second wave waning and positive cases declining by the day, he urged the state government to lift the lockdown in the remaining 11 districts and further relax restrictions in 19 districts to enable the trade and industry resume their activities for gradual recovery.

“On our part, we assure the government to follow all the protocols, including standard operating procedures and Covid appropriate behaviour such as wearing face mask, maintaining social distancing and hygiene to contain the virus spread and prevent the potential threat of a third wave,” he reiterated.

The apex body also urged the state government to allow buses and metro rail to resume operations as majority of people depend on public transport to commute in cities and towns across the state.

“The state government should also vaccinate all our employees, workers and labourers on priority to ensure their health safety and work without the fear of being infected,” added Sundar.