Trade and Travel Restrictions: India

Constantly updated information about the situation in India with focus on the general situation, movement of goods and movement of people.
 

overview

A quick overview of the affected areas. Please find more detailed information below.

General Situation

General Situation

Description of the current situation

The Indian government imposed a nation-wide lockdown in March which was partially lifted three months later, in June. The country is currently in the fifth phase of unlock, with significant relaxations vis-à-vis movement of people and resumption of economic activity. Latest guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution will be in force till December 31. Read related news: Govt announces new Covid guidelines from 01 Dec, states to enforce strict containment measures.

In part due to increase in testing, but mostly attributed to the significant opening up of offices, markets, and resumption of flights and trains, there has been a surge in the number of cases across the country. The opening up has been necessitated by the need to kick start the Indian economy which has been adversely hit.

Amidst growing concerns regarding an increase in the number of cases during the ongoing holiday and winter season, there are also news articles indicating under reporting of cases. Recently the Supreme Court intervened saying if the States are not well prepared, the situation might worsen in Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam. It seems that the stricter implementation of restrictions is beginning to result in a downward trend in the number of active cases in several states. That said, India continues to have the 2nd highest number of cases in the world.

Covid-19 overview India on December 17:

  • Active Cases:                        332'002
  • Cured/Discharged Cases:  9’456'449
  • Deaths:                                  144'096
  • Total cases:                         9’932'547

States with the highest number of "Active Cases" on December 17:

Healthcare facilities in the country

While the shortage in hospital beds has been met by converting railway coaches, banquet halls, stadiums, hotels and specialty nursing homes into Covid-19 treatment centers; the lack of ICU beds, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, as well of doctors and nurses, continues to extend the already burdened and inadequate, public and private healthcare, facilities in the country. Read news articles:

Government measures

  • The Government of India Covid-19 tracing app: Aarogya Setu
  • The Government of India helplines: +91 11 2397 8046, Toll Free 1075 and ncov2019@gov.in
  • Nation-wide lockdown phases:
    - Lockdown 1.0: March 25 to April 14 (21 days)
    - Lockdown 2.0: April 15 to May 03 (19 days)
    - Lockdown 3.0: May 04 to May 17 (14 days)
    - Lockdown 4.0: May 18 to May 31 (14 days)
    - Lockdown 5.0: June 01 to June 30 (30 days) and Unlock 1
    - Unlock 2: July 01 to July 31 + Lockdown in containment zones until July 31       
    - Unlock 3: August 01 to August 31 (except for in containment zones)
    - Unlock 5: October 1 to October 31 (except for in containment zones)
    - Unlock 6: November 01 to November 30 (except for in containment zones), extended until December 31

Economic outlook (economic development, effects on industries)

GDP figures indicate that the economy nose-dived to an 11 year low, growing at 4.2% during FY 2019-20, compared to 6.1% in the previous year, suggesting that growth had slowed even before the lockdown was announced in March. The impact of the strict lockdown which restricted movement of goods and people, put an initial stop to industrial production, and witnessed massive job losses, has further led to the contraction of the Indian economy; reflected in the GDP growth rate of minus 23% in April-June 2020 (a period which overlaps with the lockdown). The IMF estimated India’s GDP to drop to -4.5% in June, but has now corrected this figure to -10%. As the Indian economy enters its first ever technical recession, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in a nowcast, has indicated that GDP for July-September 2020 is set for a contraction of 8.6%. However, after the release of final figures, this contraction has been revised to 7.5% (read more)

Several rating agencies and international institutions have predicted a contraction in GDP growth with SBI Research at minus 6.8% and the latest by World Bank at minus 3.2%. In June 2020, Moody’s downgraded the Government of India’s ratings to “Baa3” from “Baa2” (outlook “negative”), and Fitch has revised its outlook on India from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’. Recently, Moody’s Investors Service has revised India’s 2020 GDP forecast to minus 8.9%, from the earlier projected minus 9.6%.

During lockdown, while activity was permitted for units producing essential goods, the government imposed export restrictions on certain essential pharmaceutical products leading to supply chain disruptions for domestic and for international companies, including for Swiss companies (see point 2).

Green shoots of recovery

Key sectors such as automotive, IT, power, FMCG, healthcare and telecom are struggling at the moment, however, there are green shoots of recovery on both the industries and the jobs front. The government is optimistic about a V shaped recovery.

Special Economic package: Self-reliant India Movement “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan”

In May, Prime Minister Modi announced a special economic package of INR 20 trillion (USD 265 billion), nearly 10% of India’s GDP. Half of the announced package includes liquidity measures taken by India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, from February 2020 until date, and the fiscal package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in March 2020.The PM, in his speech, laid emphasis on the following five areas: growing new economy, state of the art infrastructure, tech-based delivery services, demand and supply chains and lever aging demography. He also announced that reforms in areas governing land, labor, liquidity and laws would be an integral part of this package.  Subsequently, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the details of the economic package in five tranches.

After announcing economic measures to stimulate consumer demand, FM Sitharaman has recently outlined 12 key measures to further boost the country’s manufacturing and export capabilities. In addition to extending the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme to cover larger companies in 27 stressed sectors, the gov has also expanded the Production Linked Incentives Scheme (PLI), first announced for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing. With a financial outlay of INR 1.45 trillion (approx. USD 20 billion) over the next 5 years, the PLI scheme has identified the following 10 Champion Sectors - advanced chemistry cell (ACC) battery, electronic/technology products, automobile and auto component, pharmaceuticals and drugs, telecom and networking products, textile products, food products, high efficiency solar photovoltaic modules, white goods (ACs and LEDs), and specialty steel. FM’s full presentation is available at Aatmanirbhar Bharat Package 3.0.

Focus on self-reliance/ Make in India

In the last few months, the government has introduced several measures to boost domestic manufacturing and protect MSMEs from foreign competition. Further, the Indian government has explicitly demonstrated that its future policies and measures on trade will focus on the aforementioned self-reliant India (Aatma Nirbhar) policy. This has resulted in new rules for government tenders in India.

According to a press article “Foreign entities of countries which do not allow Indian companies to participate in their government buying will not be permitted to take part in domestic procurement, an official statement said on Friday. The government has added a reciprocity clause in its Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order, 2017.” Read the full order issued by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, on September 16.

The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion has issued a Consolidated FDI Policy Circular of 2020.

Movement of goods

Movement of goods

Unlock 6, currently in force in non-containment zones till September 30, sees significant relaxation vis-à-vis movement of goods and people, and restarting of economic activities. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also issued an order to all to States regarding non imposition of restriction on inter-State and intra State movement of persons and goods and services.

The issues faced by companies during lockdown such as supply chain bottlenecks, liquidity crunch and unavailability of labor persist to a certain degree. However, companies are also treading cautiously due to mechanisms such as safe distancing, staggered timings that have to be implemented in offices and factories.

Defense of Swiss interest cases

In the first phase of the lockdown, Swiss companies primarily from the pharma and medtech sectors contacted SECO as well as the Embassy/ Consulate in order to seek intervention to resolve time critical supply chain problems that included transport of goods within the country, exporting goods to Switzerland as well as enabling partial production. Relevant contacts with various government authorities, and with Invest India’s Business Immunity Platform, was established in order to obtain special exemptions and permissions. There are also similar request from Swiss companies regarding movement of non-essential goods. We have received 24 Swiss company cases till date.

The government has issued several notifications to regulate the export of goods in Covid-19 times. These are available on the website of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.

Movement of people

Movement of people

Restrictions on entry from Switzerland

Below considerations are relevant in the context of Swiss companies wanting to deploy employees to India but also with respect to Swiss citizens/residents traveling for business purposes to India. Businessmen from Switzerland can travel to India provided they follow all the procedures laid down by the Indian authorities, getting tested for Covid-19, following visa regulations, as well as the health and quarantine rules issued by various State governments.

Important visa and travel related update: On 21 October, the government announced significant easing of visa and travel restrictions for both foreign and Indian nationals. For details, please see the memorandum issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and for current visa related information, refer to the website of the Embassy of India in Berne.

Elaborating on these changes, a news article comments “..barring electronic and tourist visas, the ministry has said that it is restoring, with immediate effect, all categories of visas that will allow foreign nationals, Indians, as well as those who hold Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards as well as People of Indian Origin (PIO) card holders to enter the country through authorized airports and seaport immigration check posts. The categories of visas using which people can now enter India include business, conferences, employment, studies, research, and medical purposes…”

India quarantine rules and guidelines for international passengers: On November 05, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued revised Guidelines for International Arrivals. All travellers should submit a self-declaration form (check online portal www.newdelhiairport.in) at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel, or physically after arrival at the respective health counters. They should also give an undertaking that “they would abide by the decision of the appropriate government authority to undergo facility / home quarantine/ self-monitoring of their health for 14 days, or as warranted”. The revised guidelines have also laid down certain conditions under which a traveller can seek exemption from institutional quarantine - you are advised to go through the guidelines for details, and to please check for updates before travel because these can change at short notice. Various Indian States have developed their own travel and quarantine guidelines for both international as well as domestic travellers. It is advisable to check the State-wide quarantine guidelines, and the relevant State government website for latest updates before you travel.

Restrictions on entry from India

Below considerations are relevant in the context of Indian companies wanting to deploy employees to Switzerland for Swiss client projects (in particular ITC sector) but also with respect to Indian entrepreneurs/investors traveling for business purposes to Switzerland (e.g. to evaluate a set-up or to incorporate a subsidiary).

An India based person with Swiss working contract / work permit can enter Switzerland. Indian nationals with business visas and tourist visas are not yet allowed entry. As per the guidelines applicable from December 14, those who are allowed entry from India to Switzerland, are exempt from mandatory quarantine for the time being. Since the situation is ever evolving, please check the latest information before you plan travel.

Also read below an excerpt from Corona: Entry restrictions that apply to high-risk countries issued by the State Secretariat for Migration.

Related to fee refund

As per the guidelines issued, the Swiss Embassy cannot provide a fee refund or modifications on the existing visa if your visa application has already been processed.  In case you have postponed your trip to Switzerland for a later date, we request you refer to this link. This is valid, only if you were previously issued a visa for the duration between 15.03.2020- 30.09.2020.

For current visa information, you can refer to website of the Embassy of Switzerland in New Delhi

Restrictions on mobility within the country (India)

There has been a significant resumption of domestic flights, trains, buses and other forms of public as well as private transport. However, some restrictions remain and new ones get implemented as and when the situation on the ground changes. Read news: 

While announcing Unlock 6.0 guidelines, the Government has, once again, reiterated that there should be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods including those for cross land-border trade under Treaties with neighboring countries. News article.

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