The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has urged the government to consider the steel sector as an essential service and permit its operation with necessary precautions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlighting the sector’s challenges such as subdued demand and logistical issues due to the lockdown, FICCI proposed several policy measures to enhance the sector’s contribution to employment and overall economic growth.

To improve the sector’s financial access, FICCI proposed granting infrastructure status to the steel industry. This status would enable the industry to access finance at competitive rates from various markets and sources. Additionally, FICCI suggested subsidizing railway freight by an additional 15 percent for the next six months and reducing the class of iron ore for freight purposes. The industry body also called for waiving charges such as container detention, demurrage charges, and ground rent by custodians until May-end to alleviate the financial burden on the steel industry.

In terms of demand revival, FICCI emphasized front-loading investments in the National Infrastructure Pipeline and allowing construction activities to resume with necessary precautions. It also stressed the need to expedite the operationalization of all steel-consuming industries to stimulate demand and economic activity in the sector.

Furthermore, FICCI underscored the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of workers in the steel sector by implementing stringent health and safety protocols. It recommended the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitization measures at workplaces to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Additionally, FICCI urged the government to collaborate with industry stakeholders to develop and implement comprehensive guidelines for the safe operation of steel plants and related facilities during the pandemic. These measures, coupled with the proposed policy interventions, are essential for revitalizing the steel sector and facilitating India’s economic recovery post-lockdown.