MSMEs, considered the lifeblood of the Indian manufacturing sector, are struggling to stay afloat due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government, on its part, has tried to alleviate their problems by announcing sops for the sector like the creation of a 'Fund of Funds' with a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore and making the sector a key stakeholder in the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.
In an exclusive interview with Moneycontrol, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways and MSMEs, highlighted the measures taken by the government in helping the MSMEs recover from this major setback. He also spoke on the issue of migrant labourers and the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on road construction activities.
"We have started a web portal - CHAMPIONS - for MSMEs. Whenever there is a problem as far as the government policy is concerned and any MSME is facing issues, my humble suggestion to them is kindly post the grievances on the portal. We will go into the details, there is a committee and we will resolve the issue. The Prime Minister has also appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Rajnath Singh to take the review of complete package," he said.
On the issue of outstanding PSU dues of MSMEs, he said: "There are dues of MSME with central government, central government ministries, and public undertaking belongs to Bharat Sarkar. That is one part. The second part is state government and their undertakings and the third part is with major industries. The Finance Minister is also taking the review meeting for that and already they issued order. I have requested all of them to give first priority to MSMEs."
As part of Unlock 1.0, he said around 70-80 percent MSMEs are slowly restarting their operations and also reiterated that the preventive measures taken by the government were in the best interests of the migrant labourers.
Gadkari admitted that road construction has taken a hit due to the COVID-19 outbreak but he has set a target of 40 kilometre per day after the monsoon.
Gadkari said work is in progress on setting up of the MSME stock exchange, which is expected to address capital woes of the sector.
"It is not a separate stock exchange. Now, I am going to call a meeting of all concerning stock exchanges and how it can be fix up the procedure for that that we are working on this line and definitely in due course certainly we will take the decision. We will add first at least up to 15 percent equity in the MSMEs and then they will go to the capital market. They will get equity and in the 2-3 years, our Rs 10 share will increase by 3-4 times. We will sell the equity and we will give that equity to other MSMEs. We are working on it," he said.
The buzz around electric vehicles has dimmed a bit in the recent past but Gadkari is confident of a seamless transition.
"TVS, Bajaj and other companies have electric bikes and scooters in India. In some of the corporations, they are running buses," he said.
With the country, especially Delhi and Mumbai, struggling to contain the spread of the virus, Gadkari said there is an urgent need to remove the negativity among people.
"I am confident in the due course of time we will get the vaccine, if once we take the vaccine there will be no problem and that will be true protection to everybody, so as early as possible to get vaccine is going to resolve our problems. But when the vaccine is not there in the situation, it is the time of the country, try to understand the people of the country that we have to live with coronavirus. We need to understand art of living with coronavirus to protect ourselves. There is no any other option, no shortcut from that," he said.Follow our coverage of the coronavirus crisis here