As Maharashtra cautiously starts implementing an unlockdown plan, small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in Pune district have expressed concerns about the low level of vaccinations achieved in their sector. Most of the over 4 lakh people employed in the sector are in the 18-44 age group and have failed to get vaccines in the private sector.
The vaccination process for this age group has faced many hurdles. The state government has decided to prioritise the 45 and above age group in its hospitals and centres, and most members in this age group have had to opt for vaccines from the private sector. Prior registration on the CoWIN platform is mandatory, the process of registration itself is tedious and the vaccine is not free. Workers spending hours waiting in long queues at vaccine centres also results in loss of productive man hours for the sector.
Abhay Bhor, president of the Forum for Small Scale Industries Association, said majority of the workforce has failed to get their doses. “For the SME sector, vaccinating our staff is important as they may get infected, and spread the infection across urban areas,” he said.
The Forum had earlier approached the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation about organising special vaccination drives for the industrial sector. There were also plans to have a special dedicated van which would vaccinate industrial workers. But due to lack of enough vaccine doses, neither plan has taken off, said Bhor.
Sudhir Mehta, president of the Mahrattta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture, admitted that availability of the vaccine for the SME sector has been a challenge. He pointed out that the central government is set to release 73 lakh vaccine doses for Maharashtra, of which at least 10 per cent should come to Pune.
“The state government and private hospitals are also set to get around 7 lakh does, taking the total availability to around 12-14 lakh doses. If we are able to vaccinate even 50,000 workers in the next two months, the situation will get better in Pune,” he said.
While the SME sector is struggling with inadequate vaccination, bigger companies in Pune’s industrial sector have, however, managed to roll out mass vaccination drives for their employees.
Bajaj Auto recently announced that it will hold a mass vaccination drive across its Walunj, Akurdi, Chakan and Pantnagar facilities. The company aims to vaccinate 20,000 employees, off-roll employees, contract workers and their family members.
The Pune Platform for Covid Response (PPCR) is all set to launch its ‘vaccinate one donate one’ initiative from Sunday. Indraneel Chitale, a member of the platform, said this initiative would see corporate houses sponsoring an extra vaccine for each vaccine given to an employee. This drive is mainly aimed at providing vaccines for economically weaker sections. The drive will start on Sunday at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, where the Urban Company will sponsor it.