It has almost been a month since the Maharashtra government has given permission for restarting the economy and reopening all offices and industries but the MSME sectors (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) are still finding it difficult to bring their workers back to work. President of Pimpri-Chinchwad small and medium-sized industries association, Sandeep Belsare stated that only 50 per cent of the general labourers are coming to the workplace which is making it difficult for the industries to function.
In Pune, the MSME sector is one of the most important sources of employment with over 4 lakh labourers working for it. When the lockdown was announced in March, several labourers who hail from other districts of Maharashtra went back to their hometowns in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The contagious COVID-19 spread as well as the job uncertainty instilled a sense of fear among the workers and forced around 2 lakh labourers to leave the district and migrate to their hometowns.
Shortage of workforce was one of the major problems faced by the MSME industries as soon as the industrial sectors resumed their operations. In view of this labour shortage, the Maharashtra government came up with the idea of setting up a special desk in order to identify local youths of the state and train them in an efficient manner so that they are ready to perform industry operations in their respective districts. The work for launching the bureau has already begun as the industries continue to struggle with a limited labour force.
Sandeep Belsare stated that maximum industrial units were facing a labour shortage and operating with half of the labour force. “The only saving grace is that most companies have very thin order books at the moment,” Belsare said. The small scale industries have been severely affected by the government’s decision of not permitting the bus services for inter-district travel. “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,” he added.
However, Belsare along with other industry experts think that the situation will gradually worsen and the government will definitely issue more additional orders which are going thin at the moment. The upswing in orders will lead to workload in the upcoming days. Balsare said, “At present, the automobile sector is down, so the labour shortage is not serious. But once the orders start trickling in, we will be in for problems.” He added that their association has requested the government to make travel arrangements for the workers so that they come back to Pune and resume work.
The MSME industries, on an average count, has confirmed 30 per cent of its production scale for the pre-lockdown period, the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture survey revealed. The survey also stated that a 25 per cent business turnover is expected by the companies in the April-June quarter and around 37 per cent in the upcoming quarter.
The survey explained, “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.”