Dipen Agrawal, President of Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industry & Trade (CAMIT) said the Rs 20 Lakh crore stimulus package, as announced by Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman was discussed thread-bear in State level Executive Committee Meeting and with trade associations across the State. After deliberations at length committee members concluded that the Finance Ministry has inadvertently missed extending a helping hand to the most important and at the same time the most susceptible section of economy, the traders. Wholesale and retail traders are the important chain in any economy as they deploy self labour, capital and take all risk on themselves to bring goods manufactured in one part of the country to the consumers located in his/her area. They extend the gratuitous services to collect the indirect tax revenue from consumer on behalf of the government.
It is noticed that details of stimulus package as announced by Finance Minister extends a helping hand to the people at bottom of pyramid, i.e. the migrant labour, poor and marginalised section by providing for their food and shelter needs. Finance Ministry also announced measures to infuse liquidity in the economy and structural reforms as part of the stimulus package to support the economy in long run but there is nothing for trading community, added Dipen Agrawal.
Mohan Gurnani, Chairman-CAMIT, said present challenge is different from earlier disturbance. India is prone to calamites and has faced calamities like drought, flood, untimely-rain, earthquake, cyclone and epidemic outbreak like plaque, H1N1, Locust (Tiddi) time and again. These natural calamities and epidemic outbreaks affect business operations but largely remain limited to a specific city, area or region. The economic activity in the affected area is temporarily disturbed but overall demand for goods and services continue though subdued for a while. The trading community can manage to overcome these adversities with minimum or no State intervention. He added, even during the recessions which India faced post independence the economic activities never came to standstill across the length & breath of the country. The present crisis due to Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown is unfolding the worst ever recession for India and the most affected and vulnerable branch of trade and commerce are traders, whether wholesale or retail.
Ashok Bafna, Executive President-CAMIT, said traders are growth centric; they invest all their earnings in growth to build their business. They don’t have surpluses, they don’t keep personal assets separate from their business, and most of them think their business is the beginning and end of their life. Traders don’t have reserves like PSU’s and NMC’s they work with very limited resources of their own and sometimes with small bank or private finance. Suddenly their efforts of 20-30 years are in question because all is lost in one stroke called Covid-19.
Raju Rathi, Sr. Vice President-CAMIT, said Covid-19 has brought new challenges to traders. Total shut down, business loss for 3-4 months with no revenue, unable to pay salaries even at the reduce rate, incurring huge losses, etc will expose the traders to immense hardship, as the loss for 3 months will restrain banks from financing them irrespective of the directions from the top. Liquidity infused in the system works best for industries which are thriving, however for traders it may help them to restart but it will definitely not help them to write-off their losses.
Ajit Kothari, Secretary-CAMIT, said there is general consensus among market gurus that post Coivd-19 revenues are going to be impacted by 25-30% due to anticipated long term spending & behavioural changes in society. There will be less and less customers buying resulting in loss of future revenue as well. He added, average traders profit margin/operating income is 8-10%, whereas 2-3 months of no revenues translates in to annualised loss of between 20-25%.
Mitesh Modi, Secretary-CAMIT, said traders’ natural instinct is to survive they don’t like to die. In the present situation a lot of hand holding support is required from the government, banks and down the line administrative officers at all levels. At this crucial time it is necessary for government to initiate urgent steps to minimise the losses incurred by traders during the lockdown and protect their income post lockdown, else many traders will perish in the present Covid-19 crisis.
CAMIT has sent representation to Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi highlighting the plight of trading community due to Covid-19 lockdown and called upon him for devising extraordinary measures to minimise their losses and to take trader specific measures, over and above infusion of liquidity in economy.
Bring traders in ambit of MSMED Act: CAMIT requested PM to undo the wrong committed by MSME Ministry in 2017 and reintroduce INC Codes 45, 46 & 47 so that wholesale and retail traders can register under Udyog Aadhar Memorandum. This will enable Government to frame and notify programmes, guidelines for promotion, development and ensuring timely and smooth flow of credit to wholesale and retail traders. A healthy wholesale and retail chain is insurance for a healthy economy and inclusive growth.
Policy for zero delay in payment by government agencies: CAMIT requested PM to issue binding & mandatory directions to government machineries to adopt policy of zero delay in payment to suppliers and accountability should be fixed on a concerned officer and departmental head for the same. The government agencies should come forward to set an example for private persons in honouring the provisions of law in its true letter and spirit.
Banks should pass-on Govt./RBI relaxations to customers: CAMIT highlighting that since 01/01/2019 to 22/05/2019 RB has reduced Repo Rate from 6.50% to 4.00% in 8 instalments Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) from 19.50% to 18.00% in 6 instalments and Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from 4.00% to 3.00% to ease lending rates and increase liquidity with banks and consequent enhanced lending to trade and industry. However banks in general are reluctant to honour Govt. / RBI directions. CAMIT suggested PM to notify the schemes under appropriate provisions of Banking Regulations and other enabling Acts to make it binding & mandatory for bankers to fall in line with the mindset of Government / RBI on the issue and honour the scheme with least discretion.
Waiver or Subsidise Interest on all Loan Accounts: CAMIT demanded that interest of all type of loans should be waived for the lockdown period & six months thereafter or alternatively cap the interest rate on all existing and future loan at Repo Rate + Weighted Average Net Interest Margin for next 3 years. This will minimise loss and at the same time increase spending.
Drawing Power: Banks while financing stock & book-debt under fund based limit prescribes the age limit of stock & book debts which can be considered for calculating the drawing power of the account holder. Owing to the lockdown and zero to negligible business activity the stock & book debt are bound to cross the prescribed age limit. CAMIT requested to direct banks to exclude the lockdown period while calculating the age of stock and book debt.
Bar on Negative Revision of Existing Limits: Owing to the Covid-19 crisis, lockdown and slow resumption of economic activities post lockdown the turnover targets projected by traders for last quarter of FY 2019-20 and for full FY 2020-21 are bound to be subdued. CAMIT requested to direct banks to refrain from making negative revision of limits during review for the year 2020-21.
Demand Loan for fresh borrower: Media reports and the FAQ issued by NCGT suggest that only existing borrowers are eligible for 20% top-up loan under Guaranteed Emergency Credit Line (GECL) of INR 3 lakh crore announced by government. However, a trader who has repaid his earlier loan or who has not availed any loan facility earlier can also be under distress. CAMIT demanded that the government should enhance the amount from INR 3.00 to 5.00 Lakh Crore and reserve the INR 2.00 Lakh Crore limit for fresh borrowers.
Moratorium on term loan instalments: Initially RBI announced 90-days moratorium for repayment and interest of all EMIs and Working Capital loans i.e. up to 30/06/2020. The moratorium period was extended by 90-days till 30/09/2020. Taking stock of current market scenario CAMIT suggested to further extend the moratorium period till 31/03/2021.
Wage Subsidy: CAMIT demanded that government should direct E.S.I.C. & Insurance Companies (in cases where Workmen Policy is taken in lieu of E.S.I.C.) to pay sickness benefits to employees for the lockdown period or alternatively 50% of wages should be reimbursed by the Union Government and 25% by the State Government to traders.
Capital Gain Tax Exemption on specified transaction: CAMIT suggested that if any person disposes his asset(s) to satisfy debt or liability owed to any financial institution, tax authority or government agencies between 01/04/2020 to 31/03/2022, then in order to give relief to person already in distress, such transaction should be exempted from the provisions of Capital Gain Tax under Income Tax Act.
Dipen Agrawal requested Prime Minister to constitute group of ministers to study the suggestions/demands and design specific proposals to prevent the Indian tradition of entrepreneurship (Sethi) practiced since 3300 BCE to become an extinct species in the post Covid-19 era.
A copy has been marked to Nitin Gadkari – Union Minister for MSME, Piyus Goyal – Union Minister for Commerce & Industries, Nirmala Sitharaman – Union Minister for Finance, Anurag Thakur – Minister of State for Finance, Sharad Pawar – National President NCP, Sonia Gandhi – President INC, Rahul Gandhi – former President INC and Devendra Fadnavis – Former Chief Minister Maharashtra with request to use their good office with Prime Minister’s Office in order to get the much needed reliefs which will ensure that the distraught traders will survive this pandemic, informs press release issued by Sanjay K. Agrawal, Vice President (Nagpur), CAMIT.