Speaking about India’s capabilities and the way forward economically in times of COVID-19, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday, 11 June, said that the country had come a long way in scaling up production of PPE kits since the demand first arose in March.
During a webinar, Gadkari said that he had spoken to Piyush Goyal, the commerce and industries minister, about exporting PPE kits. “Two months ago, we had imported PPE kits from China. Now, we are producing 5 lakh kits a day,” he said. He credited the enhanced capability to giving permission to small manufacturers to take up production.
However, PPE manufacturers have previously said that delays in government orders had cost them five weeks in preparation time.
Commenting on the economic crisis due to COVID-19, Gadkari said that creating employment opportunities for rural and tribal communities while empowering micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) was the need of the hour.
Gadkari was speaking at the launch of a report titled ‘Jobs, Growth and Sustainability: a new social contract’ for India’s recovery, prepared by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and Council on Energy Environment and Water (CEEW) .
Dr Arunabha Ghosh is CEO of CEEW and lead author on the report that makes several recommendations, like developing a robust vulnerability assessment framework of MSME sectors and creating a nationwide, centralised, Aadhaar-linked digital platform, MISHRII (MSME Information System for Holistic and Real-time Identification, Incentives and Support), to collect data on the size, distribution and economic contribution of MSMEs and their workers.
“India needs a new social contract to square the seemingly impossible trinity of jobs, growth and sustainability. A key pillar of India’s economic recovery would also be the ability of its MSMEs to bounce back and find new markets within India and abroad. Policymakers should focus on improving credit worthiness of small businesses, systematically identifying vulnerable enterprises, speedily clearing pending dues and raising awareness about clean energy and efficiency benefits to strengthen the MSME sector,” Dr Ghosh said.
‘Need Good Research, Innovation to Become Self-Reliant’
Speaking about improving the agricultural sector and Minimum Support Price (MSP), Gadkari said that there was a “vast difference in market price and MSP,” making it “very difficult for the government to take decisions. Our MSP is higher than market price and international price. this will create a crisis in the country,” he said.
Gadkari also said that he has suggested the formulation of a policy on converting rice into ethanol or bio-ethanol, as there was a surplus of both rice and wheat grains in the country, that brought about issues of storage.
"Presently, our ethanol production is Rs 20,000 crore and imports are Rs 6-7 lakh crore. So, now we are planning to make ethanol economy of Rs 1 lakh crore," he reportedly said.
Need More Data on MSMEs and Protection Measures
From the creation of a digital database of sector-wise information on MSMEs to developing a vulnerability framework, the report makes several recommendations.
"We propose the creation of a nationwide, centralised digital platform, MISHRII: MSME Information System for Holistic and Real-time Identification, Incentives and Support. MISHRII would collect data on the size, distribution, and economic contribution of MSMEs and their workers to the national output, and seed details such as occupation, days of employment and monthly income into their Aadhaar-linked profiles. We recommend that the MoMSME develop a vulnerability assessment framework of MSME sectors to efficiently target support measures by accounting for varying levels of vulnerabilities and sectoral nuances, resulting in effective use of government resources,” the report reads.
It also recommends improving the credit-worthiness of small businesses by giving credit guarantees on their behalf to lenders and taking protection measures against predatory practices of some trading partners.