The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has decided to extend all its containment services to fight the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to the Pune Cantonment Board. The decision comes after the PCB filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to seek financial assistance and said it was unable to take preventive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in its areas.
In its petition, the PCB had pointed out that its financial condition was deteriorating and the board was unable to even meet the basic expenditure to pay salaries and wages of its staff.
The court has also directed the PCB to file an affidavit, along with its last-audited balance sheet, details of its financial status as on date, actual assistance required to meet the basic expenditure of salary and wages of staff and preventive measures to curb the spread of the infection. The affidavit has to be filed by March 23.
The PCB, in its plea, also submitted that the financial position of the Board has reached this stage as it has not received its share of the Goods and Services Tax from the state and Union governments.
Both the state and the Centre have claimed that the other is responsible for payment of GST to cantonments.
On March 17, the court stated, “India is known to be a country which reaches out to extend timely assistance and aid even to its neighbouring countries facing national or international catastrophes. It is shocking that when we ourselves, amongst other nations, are facing such a vexing catastrophe, which is declared as a global pandemic, the state and the Centre are quibbling on the issue as to who should provide the necessary financial assistance to the PCB and whether GST is at all payable or to be shared with the PCB.”
The court also directed immediate aid of at least Rs 1 crore to the PCB, to be used to pay salaries and wages of its staff who carry out the day-to-day civic duties like sweeping roads. The fund also has to be used to take necessary preventive measures to contain the spread of the infection.
Meanwhile, PMC Additional Commissioner Rubal Agarwal said the PMC staff should extend all necessary help to PCB to adhere to the containment plan, as cantonment areas adjoined PMC boundaries.
Small-scale industries in Pimpri-Chinchwad announce indefinite shutdown
The Pimpri-Chinchwad Small Scale Industries Association has directed its member companies to shut down their operations till further notice. Sandeep Belsare,president of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Small Scale Industries Association, said this decision was taken after meeting with district industry officer as well officers of the Maharashtra Industries Development Corporation (MIDC).
The state government’s directive to private companies to allow its employees to work from home had posed serious challenges for the manufacturing sector. For small-scale industries, this was difficult as the nature of their work did not permit work from home. The industries act as vendors for the automobile and auto-ancillary OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the region, and nearly 3-4 lakh workers are employed in this sector.
As per a press release issued by the Association, the decision was taken in view of Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s order on shutdown on Friday.
The chief minister had issued orders to close down all companies to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID 19) outbreak in the state. Maharashtra has reported the highest number of positive cases in the country, with authorities worried about the rapid spread of the infection.
The shutdown has come at a time when the sector was busy with March-ending orders. Failure to comply with these orders puts a question mark over the survival of the units.
While operations will be closed down to comply with the government’s directives, it will not lead to immediate lay-off of employees, said Belsare. “We will pay our employees as of now. But the situation might change if the shutdown continues for a long time,” he said.
Following the chief minister’s directives, Tata Motors had announced late on Friday that it was preparing to temporarily shut down its operations at its Pune plant from March 24 “if the situation warrants”.
Other auto OEMs have also started scaling down their operations for complete plant closure to stop the spread of the virus. (ENS)
Essential, non-essential: District admn to categorise industrial units
EVEN AS questions are being raised by employees of various industrial units in the city on how employers are not allowing them to work from home, some “social activists” have taken it upon themselves to close down functional industrial units. However, the Pune district administration has said it is in the process of making a list categorising industrial units as those involved in essential products/services and non-essential products/services.
This will make it easier for them to implement closure orders as part “social distancing” efforts as well as to enforce work from home directives issued to private firms.
“Summary closure of all industrial units is not advisable. If we close down some IT (information technology) units in Pune, it may have national and international ramifications. They provide services linked to banks, insurance firms, mobile phone companies and, most importantly, even to the firms and departments in the health sector, in India and abroad. Although these units can’t be closed, we are appealing to them that they should keep only the required minimum staff and rest can be asked to work from home. We can’t give them specific instructions on how many staffers to retain and how many to be put on leave or allowed to work from home. It’s for them to decide,” said Pune Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar.
Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said the list of industrial units involved in essential and non-essential services will soon be made public. Ram also warned individuals against taking the law into their own hands and entering industrial units with a mob and closing them down by issuing threats.
On Friday, videos had emerged on social media of local “social activists” visiting some private firms in Hinjewadi and pressuring the managers to close them.
“Nobody has any right to go to any industrial unit or an IT park to go and ask them to close down the company or industry. We will take strict action against them for hooliganism. Such coercive action by individuals won’t be tolerated. The government is able to make a decision about these matters and if any individual wants to contribute, all they have to do is stay within their houses. That’s the best co-operation they can extend,” said Ram.
Drastic drop in MSRTC traffic
After the initial scramble, the rush to leave the city using state transport buses seems to have calmed (although the exodus has now started via North India bound trains) with as much as 80 per cent trips of the state transport buses getting cancelled due to low occupancy and state government’s orders to curtail the trips.
As per Mhaisekar, of an average 2,609 trips from various MSRTC stations in Pune, only 568 trips were conducted on Friday and 2,041 were cancelled. Only 13,000 persons travelled on this day, down from about 60,000 that use the service every day. (ENS)
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