Other States

‘Staff shortage weighing down SMEs’

Lone ranger: A worker arranges jaggery in a unit on Solapur highway. Most people worker in jaggery units are migrants from U.P. Their exodus has led to a lack of manpower.

Lone ranger: A worker arranges jaggery in a unit on Solapur highway. Most people worker in jaggery units are migrants from U.P. Their exodus has led to a lack of manpower.   | Photo Credit: Jigneh Mistry

Though around 4,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Pune district’s Pimpri-Chinchwad area resumed operations with 33% staff on Monday, industry representatives say the units are facing severe shortage of labour owing to the exodus of migrant workers.

Sandeep Belsare, president, Pimpri-Chinchwad Small and Medium Scale Industries Association, said labourers have returned to their hometown not only in other States, but also to other districts of Maharashtra. He said, “After SMEs and industrial operations came to a standstill on March 22, about 95% employers paid salaries for March and April. However, over 60% workers in small industrial units in Pimpri-Chinchwad had left for home by then.”

Mr. Belsare said around 4.5 lakh workers were employed in 11,000-odd SMEs spread across Pimpri, Chinchwad, Bhosari, Chikhli and other industrial areas. “Through police records, we estimate that around three lakh of these workers, who include labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and other States, and Vidarbha and Marathwada regions within the State, left for their hometowns during this period,” he said.

‘Staggering losses’

Mr. Belsare said the daily turnover of these 11,000 companies was around ₹500 crore. He said, “This translates to staggering revenue losses of ₹28,000 crore during the 56-day lockdown. With big firms like Tata Motors, Mahindra and John Deere reeling under the lockdown, smaller units with less shock-absorbing potential stare at a bleak future.” He said with all units shutting shop in Mumbai, sourcing raw material for steel and iron units has become a major challenge.

Mr. Belsare said units should have been allowed to open at least 10 days earlier and owners were encumbered with filling online applications to resume operations. He said the directive prohibiting employees to use two-wheelers to reach workplaces was posing problems. Mr. Belsare said it is ludicrous to expect owners of small units to arrange ‘dedicated transport’ and ferry three or four staffers in a car.

‘Ferry staff in buses’

He demanded the government to make provisions to ferry workers in State Transport buses and drop them near MIDCs. He said, “The owners of many small industrial units themselves have only two-wheelers. Also, even if transport is arranged, how can one control where employees go after work? The government’s logic on this count is utterly absurd.”

Mr. Belsare also said the administrations of Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune civic bodies have to quickly find a solution to ferry employees working in units in Pimpri-Chinchwad but residing in Pune city, half of which is a containment zone.

He said despite assurances by Industries Minister Subhash Desai and Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) has hiked tariffs.

‘Unfair tariff policy’

He said, “The MSEDCL has only cut demand charges, but is calculating power bills based on average consumption in pre-lockdown months. If an industrial unit’s average power bill was ₹2 lakh before the lockdown, the owner has to shell out that much even though no electricity was used for the last 56 days.”

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2020 2:06:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/staff-shortage-weighing-down-smes/article31618897.ece

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