More than a month since the state government allowed industries to resume work, the micro, small and medium scale (MSME) industries in Pune are still struggling to get labourers back to work. Sandeep Belsare, president of the Pimpri-Chinchwad small and medium scale industries association said they are functioning with only 50 per cent of usual labour force.
With more than 4 lakh workers, MSME sector is a major employment generator for Pune district. At the beginning of the lockdown in March, large number of labourers – from other districts of the state and other states – went back to their native places. The fear associated with Covid-19 pandemic as well as the uncertainty of their jobs resulted in around 2 lakh workers migrating from the district.
Once the industrial units started their operations, labour shortage was one of the major problems flagged by the MSME sector. The shortage of labour had led to the state government launching a special bureau, with an aim to identify and train local youths to work in industries in their districts. While the work for the bureau is underway, the industries continue to face labour shortage.
Belsare said most of the units were functioning with only half their workforce. “The only saving grace is that most companies have very thin order books at the moment,” he said. The decision of the government not to allow the restart of inter-district bus services has pinched the small scale industries. “It is not possible for us to get chartered vehicles for our workers. The state transport should be allowed to bring in out-of-district labourers back to Pune,” Belsare said.
While the order book is thin at the moment, Belsare and other industry experts said there will be a slight but definite upswing in orders, which will see the workload increasing in days to come. “At present the automobile sector is down, so the labour shortage is not serious. But once the orders start tricking in, we will be in for problems,” Belsare said, adding that the association has demanded from the state government to allow labourers travel back to Pune.
Meanwhile, a survey by the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture showed that on an average, the MSME sector has reported 30 per cent of its pre-lockdown production levels. The survey also highlighted that companies are expecting 25 per cent business turnover in the April-June quarter and 37 per cent in the next quarter.
“Under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS), 80 per cent applicants did not apply for it, 18 per cent applied but are yet to receive the credit while 2 per cent applied and received additional credit. Only 10 per cent of those who applied got the credit so far…,” the survey stated.
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