Maharashtra Tuesday rolled out a slew of incentives for women entrepreneurs, becoming the first Indian state to unveil a dedicated industrial policy for women.
Under the policy, cleared by the state cabinet, first-generation women entrepreneurs who set up micro, small or medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the state will be entitled to a capital subsidy of up to Rs 1 crore, depending on location of the unit. “This is the first time the government has extended a capital grant incentive to an industry segment,” said Maharashtra Development Commissioner (Industries) Dr Harshdeep Kamble.
Industries Minister Subhash Desai said the women-run businesses would be offered special concessions for locating their units, and extended lower power tariffs, higher interest subsides, and grants for branding their products, among other incentives.
For existing women-run enterprises, the fresh perks would come in addition to those already offered under the universal package of incentives. But with the state’s finance managers cautioning about the possibility of other entrepreneurs misusing the policy for added benefits, the government has decided to limit the new perks only to units or businesses exclusively established and run by women. There is another mandatory clause that 50 per cent of the employees in such units must be women for availing the benefits.
The policy, said Desai, was aimed at creating more women entrepreneurs. While Maharashtra is India’s most industrialised state, it has a poor women participation rate of 9 per cent in the MSME sector. The corresponding national average is around 13.8 per cent. The industries policy for women, to be in force for the coming five years, is aimed at increasing this to 20 per cent in the state. An annual burden of Rs 649 crore (Rs 3,240 crore over five years) is expected to fall on the state’s exchequer. But Desai said, “A separate budgetary head will be created for the expenditure. The expenditure should be viewed as an investment to boost industrial investment and financially empower women.” Women self-help groups can avail these incentives, but they would have to register as a company under the Companies Act, Kamble said.
In line with the government’s overall industrial policy, the policy for women also aims at giving a push to investments in industrially backward belts. Women setting up enterprises in Naxal-infested districts in Vidarbha would be entitled to a capital grant equal to 35 per cent of the unit’s capital cost, or up to Rs 1 crore. Those setting up units in other backward districts in Marathwada and Vidarbha will be offered a 25 per cent capital grant, or up to Rs 50 lakh. While no incentives are offered for units in developed industrial belts such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune, the state has made an exception for women enterprises, who would be entitled to 15 per cent capital grant or Rs 20 lakh. While units already availing benefits under various central, state, and PSU-run schemes would also be eligible for the benefit, the government has capped the overall capital grant that could be availed to 50 per cent.
Women-run businesses would also be offered an additional concession of Rs 1-Rs 2 per unit in electricity tariff, based on location. A 5 per cent interest subsidy in loans availed for running the unit would be offered. The government has further said it would bear 50 per cent of the cost these enterprises spend on their share of the employees provident fund and similar labour welfare initiatives. Financial assistance of up to Rs 1 crore will be offered for branding initiatives over these five years, while grants up to Rs 10 lakh would be provided towards cost of participating in various exhibitions to promote products.
The policy proposes additional building rights to malls, commercial buildings, and market places for building spaces exclusively for women-run enterprises, while promising reservation for building such units in publicly-owned market places, railway station premises, bus stations, and theatres, etc. The government has also designed an incentive scheme for promoting women-run incubation centres, while proposing a dedicated skill development institute for women. It has said it would offer up to 90 per cent grants for industrial clusters catering exclusively to women-run enterprises. Besides, the Women and Child Development department will set up a venture capital of Rs 50 crore for financing women entrepreneurs.
Action on industries not employing locals
Industries not employing 80 per cent locals may lose some of the perks that the Maharashtra government has offered. Invoking the ‘sons of the soil’ card, the Shiv Sena-controlled Industries department has decided to crack the whip on industries that haven’t complied with the norm. After Shiv Sena ministers raised the issue in the cabinet, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered setting up of a special cell to monitor the employment performance of industries in the state. The Shiv Sena’s move comes at a time when Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has raised the sons of the soil issue again.