The output of eight core sectors grew by 6.8 per cent in March, the highest in 32 months, driven by base effect-led uptick in production of natural gas, steel, cement and electricity, official data showed on Friday.
The growth rate of the eight infrastructure sectors -- coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity -- stood at (-) 8.6 per cent in March 2020.
According to the commerce and industry ministry data, production of natural gas, steel, cement and electricity jumped 12.3 per cent, 23 per cent, 32.5 per cent and 21.6 per cent in March, as against (-) 15.1 per cent, (-) 21.9 per cent, (-) 25.1 per cent and (-) 8.2 per cent in March 2020, respectively.
Coal, crude oil, refinery products and fertiliser segments recorded negative growth during the month under review.
During 2020-21 (April-March), output of the eight sectors contracted by 7 per cent as against a positive growth of 0.4 per cent in 2019-20.
Commenting on the numbers, ICRA Ltd Chief Economist Aditi Nayar said the 6.8 per cent growth in March, a "32-month high", is due to the base effect.
The low base of the lockdown-hit April 2020 would push up the year-on-year expansion of the index of eight core industries to a sharp 50-70 per cent in April 2021, with exceptionally high growth expected in cement and steel, she added.
"However, we have observed a slackening in the sequential momentum in April 2021 in electricity demand, vehicle registrations, and generation of GST e-way bills, revealing the impact of the recent surge in COVID infections and localised restrictions.
"Based on the available data, we project the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) to record a sharp growth of 17.5-25 per cent in March 2021," she added.
In February, output of these sectors dipped by 3.8 per cent.