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Demand for dedicated vaccine centre goes unheard, lakhs of SME sector workers remain unvaccinated

Sandeep Belsare, chairman of Pimpri-Chinchwad Small Scale Industries Association, said they have been asking for a dedicated vaccination centre for SMEs for a long time.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune |
Updated: June 23, 2021 9:47:06 am
A vaccination camp in ESIS Hospital in Navi Mumbai. Representative Image. (Express Photo: Amit Chakravarty)

Small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in Pimpri-Chinchwad and Chakan continue to wait for special vaccination camps for their employees even though larger industries in the same area have managed to get most of their direct and indirect employees vaccinated. With experts warning about the possibility of a third wave of coronavirus infections later this year, these units are now worried about a possible surge in infections in their workforce if ample number of their employees are not vaccinated by that time.

Maharashtra government has started free vaccination for everybody above 18 from Monday. Prior to that, private hospitals were vaccinating local residents in the 18-44 year age group while government centres continued with free vaccinations for those above 45. Back then, the SME sector had asked the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation to earmark dedicated centres for their employees.

Majority of the industrial workers in the sector are in the 18-44 age group.

Sandeep Belsare, chairman of Pimpri-Chinchwad Small Scale Industries Association, said they have been asking for a dedicated vaccination centre for SMEs for a long time. “However, a purely dedicated centre for small and medium-scale industries is yet to materialise,” he said. While bigger companies have managed to book doses for their workers, the relatively high cost of the vaccines in the private sector does not allow small-scale industries to book in bulk quantities, said Belsare.

Abhay Bhor, president of the Forum of Small Scale Industries Association, alleged that both the civic body and the industries ministry have turned a blind eye towards the need of the sector. “What the government fails to see is that the industrial workers stay in residential areas so if one of them is infected, the infection will also spread to other parts,” said Bhor.

With an eye on the civic elections which are a few months away, political leaders have started conducting special vaccination drives in their wards, said Bhor.

But the SME sector, which provides employment to over 3-4 lakh people in the area, has not got any doses. “We demand the industry ministry steps in and earmarks 25 per cent of the doses for the SME sector. These should be only for the workers and given in industrial areas,” said Bhor.

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