Kolkata: Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Road Transport & Highways, Government of India at a Special e-Session on ‘Post COVID-19 Reconstruction: Challenges and New Opportunities in India’ organised by Bharat Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Bharat Chamber Young Business Forum on April 23 addressed numerous challenges being faced by the Trade and Industry due to the ongoing lockdown crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the course of the e-Session, Gadkari highlighted the present relief and support measures being worked by the Government as well as the future roadmap to facilitate the industry overcome the unprecedented loss of the lockdown.
Gadkari, in his Address, referred to the point put forward by Ramesh Kumar Saraogi, President regarding the business opportunities India can tap when the Corona pandemic has made China very unpopular amongst global investors. Gadkari stated that this pandemic has proved to be a blessing in disguise for India as well as a strength for our country for attracting fresh investments. However, he added that reduction in production costs by bringing down logistics and power costs is necessary for India to have an edge over China.
Responding to the Chamber President’s query on the scope for new projects in boosting the Industry, Gadkari stated that the Industry can acquire 10,000 acres of land from the National Highway Authority of India and build smart cities and clusters surrounding the highways and ports. The Minister informed that his Ministry, at present, is working on the construction of 22 new Green Express Highways in the country through rural areas where land equation is easier and cheaper to reduce distances between cities and towns and set up ‘Industrial Clusters’ along the highways. “With innovation and research industry needs to convert knowledge in to research”, thr Minister emphasised.
Addressing the problem faced by the MSMEs in availing pending payments from the PSUs and other Departments of the Government, Gadkari stated that the Government is currently working on a scheme of an estimated Rs. 1 lakh crore to Rs. 2 lakh crore where the Government will act as a guaranteer and all pending payments of the MSMEs will be borne partially by the Government and PSUs. “The Government is trying its best to clear all the payments of the MSME contractors at least for the 100 per cent owned Government companies, even if they have become insolvent” he added.
Gadkari urged the industry to keep patience and project collective team spirit during this time. He stated, “The Central Government, State Governments and the banking sector are facing economic crisis at present but at the same time we are also trying to work out conducive policies so that equillibrium and sustainability to all the organs of the economy can be provided. We believe that without the industry, we cannot improve the job situation and pull out the economy from the financial crisis.”
Members of the Chamber expressed their apprehensions on starting operations of their units which have remained closed for more than a month. Responding to this, Gadkari stated, “We need to start industry but we cannot afford to cause the spread of the virus. However, units located in safe zones and ready to follow the preventive measures for containment of the virus will be allowed to start their operations soon. ”
N. G. Khaitan, Senior Vice-President of the Chamber requested him to look into the possibility of providing ‘Suspension of Insolvency proceedings and Suspension of Enforcement of Security’ to the industry for a period of six months to one year to boost the confidence of the industry and trading community facing liquidity crisis due to the lockdown
Responding to a question, the Minister stated that the definition of MSME in terms of turnover is awaiting final clearance and Interest Subvention Scheme will be extended for a longer period.
Responding to a suggestion that ESI corpus should be utilised for payment of wages, Minister assured to look into the mater.
Earlier in his Welcome Address, Ramesh Kumar Saraogi, President informed that Bharat Chamber of Commerce is prepared to lend all kinds of assistance to the Government in matters of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and has already made sizeable donations to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister’s Relief Funds. “We have also distributed masks and sanitisers in four important markets in Kolkata”, Shri Saraogi added.