India returning to normal business activity; consumption, demand rising: PM Modi

New Delhi, Jun 18 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said business activity in India is fast returning to normal levels with consumption and demand approaching pre-COVID levels as visible in macro data on power, fuel and other consumption.

India faced a recession-like scenario after a national lockdown was imposed on March 25 to curb spread of coronavirus. The lockdown, that has continued in various phases into June, albeit with significant easing of restrictions, resulted in the severe disruption of industrial production and consumer spending, with GDP growth forecast to contract sharply.

With the easing of lockdown conditions, business activity was fast returning to normal levels, Modi said.

Speaking at the launch of commercial coal mining, he said 'consumption and demand are fast approaching pre-COVID levels'.

He cited spurt in power generation and consumption as well as demand for petroleum products during the last week of May and first week of June to buttress his point.

E-way bills have seen about 200 per cent rise when compared with April. Also, road and highway toll collection in June has reached 70 per cent of the pre-COVID levels of February, while railway freight tariff in May has seen an improvement of 26 per cent over April. Digital transactions too have witnessed a rise in both volume and value terms.

'These indicators point to Indian economy fast preparing to bounce back,' he said adding, 'India has come out of big crises in the past and it will come out of the present one as well.' The back-breaking lockdown has led international rating agencies and analysts to forecast a contraction in Indian economy in the fiscal ending March 31, 2021 and sharp recovery in the following financial year.

So far, the government as well as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not put an estimate of growth for 2020-21 fiscal.

Modi said the rural economy is also picking up speed. 'Area under sowing of the Kharif crop is 13 per cent more than last year. This year wheat production and procurement has also increased. When compared to last year, wheat procurement is 11 per cent more which means farmers are also getting more money.' 'India has come out of past crises and it will come out of this one as well,' he said. 'Indian success, growth is guaranteed. We can become self-reliant,' he added.

'Just until a few weeks back, we used to import N-95 face masks, corona testing kids, personal protective equipment (PPE), and ventilators. But now India is meeting its demand through Make in India. Soon we will become exporters of important medical products,' he said.

The Prime Minister stressed on self-reliance, which means cutting down on imports and turning into an export-surplus nation.

He asked India Inc and corporate leaders to keep morale high. 'We can achieve these goals. We can become self-reliant. We have to make a self-reliant India,' he said.

India Inc and the corporate world has a chance to change the course of history and fate of India. We should not let this opportunity go. Let's take India forward, make India self-reliant.' Modi pitched for reversing import dependence in sectors such as coal and exploiting domestically available resources to turn into a net exporter.

'Self-reliant India means lesser dependence on imports. Self-reliant India means saving thousands of crores of rupees spent on imports and using them for welfare of the poor.

'Self-reliant India means creating an India that doesn't need to import by exploiting domestic resources. What we import today, we will be the biggest exporter of the same commodity tomorrow,' he said.

He was referring to India having the world's fourth-largest reserves yet it is the second biggest coal importer in the world.

The commercial mining of coal will make India self-sufficient in energy.

'India will fight corona and will also win,' he said adding 'we have to convert this crisis into an opportunity.' PTI SID HDA