WITH INDUSTRIES in Punjab being closed amid the curfew, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have raised concerns as to how to run fixed expenses if the COVID-19 pandemic continues for long. Though they have been asked to pay salaries of employees, power bills without any extension in date, industrialists have asked the state as well as central government as well to support the industry sector, which pays taxes and generates employment.
D S Chawla, president, United Cycles Parts and Manufacturing Association (UCPMA), and Upkar Singh, president, Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undetakings (CICU) have sent emails to the Financial Commissioner Employees State Insurance (ESI) Corporation, New Delhi, saying that units are under lockdown under medical emergency and hence wages of insured persons (IPs) should be compensated by ESI during the shutdown period, as it is a national medical emergency. “We have been told by the government to pay wages, but it is difficult for us to pay wages during the lockdown period with zero production, no orders from the market and with sealed borders across the country under section 99 A of the Indian Epidemic Act, ESIC should compensate their salaries, as we are regularly paying ESI of these employees to ESIC.”
The Punjab government had recently said that factories can be opened provided industrialists quarantine their workers inside the units, provide them food and maintain all healthcare standards. If found guilty, their licenses will be terminated. Chawla, who is the owner of Chawla International, said, “My monthly fixed charges are around Rs 4 lakh including salaries, power, EMIs. We are supporting our employees and will support them. But what if the employer goes unemployed?”
Chawla has a bicycle parts manufacturing unit and according to him, the bicycle industry of Punjab generates direct employment to around 5 lakh people and hence is feeding around 1.5 core people (including their family members). “if we go unemployed, what will happen to the economy of the country? The state as well as Centre need to think about the industry sector as well like other COVID-19 affected countries are doing.”
Tarun Jain Bawa, president of the Bahadurke Textile Knitwear Association and owner of Jain Shawls said, “I have 300 employees and my monthly expenses including salaries are around Rs 70 lakh per month, which include salaries worth approximately Rs 50 lakh, monthly power bill of around Rs 5 lakh, of which Rs 1.25 lakh are fixed charges, which I have to pay even if my factory is closed. We have asked the power corporation to take metered bill for lockdown period and waive fixed charges. We are supporting ration supplies of workers, but difficult to manage Rs 70 lakh expenditure without any work.”
Bawa said, “We have 350 units on Bahadurke Road and I am the president of the association. All units provide employment to around 40,000 employees and hence we are feeding nearly one lakh people (including their family members).”
Kamal Chopra, general secretary, Offset Printers Association (OPA), Ludhiana, and owner of Foil Printers, said, “I have 30 employees and my monthly fixed expenses including salaries, power bill and EMIs is around Rs 9 lakh. While countries abroad are supporting industries which generate employment, here, we are being overburdened.”
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