Virus is from a lab, not natural, says Indian minister Nitin Gadkari

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Intl desk, May 14: Indian Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, reacting to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements for small businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis and weeks of lockdown, said creating positivity in the circumstances was a challenge.“We have to understand the art of living with corona. This is not a natural virus. It is an artificial virus and now many countries in the whole world – they are researching on it for a vaccine. The vaccine is not available, it is expected that vaccine will be available as soon as possible, then there will be no problem,” Nitin Gadkari said in an interview to NDTV.

“The second problem is detection methodology. We need some good methodology for that so that we can immediately identify the virus. This is unexpected because this a virus from laboratory, this is not natural virus, so the world is now prepared, India is now prepared, scientists are prepared. After finding a solution for that, we can create confidence. After taking a vaccine there will be no problem,” he said, adding that this would alleviate fear.

Mr Gadkari, the Minister in charge of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and also Road Transport, said migrant workers stranded by the nationwide coronavirus lockdown left due to fear, and expressed hope that they would return when businesses reopen. “We need to fight coronavirus but we are also fighting an economic war. We are a poor country and can’t increase the lockdown from month to month,” he said.

Thousands of migrants left without jobs or homes when the country went into lockdown in late March set out for their villages on foot, on cycles or on trucks. Many didn’t make the journey, losing their lives either because of exhaustion and hunger or accidents on the highway.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a Rs 20 lakh crore package to help various sectors tide over the virus crisis.

As part of that package, the government today announced Rs 3 lakh crore of collateral-free loans for small businesses and a Rs 30,000 crore lifeline to non-bank and housing finance companies as part of measures to help revive an economy battered by the coronavirus lockdown.

Also, it cut the tax rate on non-salary payments by 25 per cent, extended support to companies to meet statutory liability on employees’ retirement fund, provided a Rs 90,000 crore bailout to cash-starved electricity distribution companies and gave construction firms up to six more months to complete the government projects.

Today’s announcement was the first of many measures to be unveiled in the coming days by the Finance Minister.

Also, the definition of MSMEs has been changed from a pure investment-based one to that provides for higher investments and turnover for companies to remain as small businesses, and avail financial and other incentives.

Small and mid-sized businesses in India account for about a third of gross domestic product and employ more than 11 crore people and the package announced on Wednesday is aimed at helping them overcome coronavirus disruptions.