Industries wait for orders, manpower

The order book of small and medium industries is slowly picking up after the COVID-19 Unlock period began in September first week showing 30-35% of original business returning to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). However, manpower shortage has hit hard some labour-intensive units like steel mills and casting industries.

The Thumukunta Industrial Park close to the Karnataka border in the district is a miniature cluster with above 200 units of all sizes having their operations and many of them were back on production track, Independent Local Authority (ILA) Chairman Mella Venkata Satyanarayana Murthy told The Hindu. While pharma and bulk drugs units are the least affected, medium industries like the Vedic Steel and the HTL had to close shop along with a few small and tiny units.

The staff working in the steel industries are from Bihar, West Bengal, U.P. and Chhattisgarh and a majority of them were willing to come back, but due to lack of transport facilities like trains and buses, they were held up, Mr. Murthy said. A few units took permission and sent buses to some States and got their workers back to Hindupur during July and August.

“The Re-start loans have come handy for us, easing pressure on salary payments,” said Mr. Murthy, who owns the Micron CNC Products company. They manufacture pistons, pins and adapters for Wipro. Even for them the order book had dried up, but now it improved to 35-40%, he explained.

Out of the 40,000 workforce in the industrial area, about 6,000 are migrant labourers and about 2,000 of them stayed back at Hindupur thanks to the support provided by their managements.

Interest burden

“We are eagerly waiting for the Supreme Court order on waiver of interest or interest on interest on industrial loans, but the Re-tart package announced by the Centre and the State government provided us 20% of our loan and the banks had on their own risk given another 10%, which we utilised for retaining manpower or infusing working capital. The recession in the economy had set in from May 2019 and it was at its worst in March 2020 and COVID-19 had compounded it,” Mr. Murthy observed.

The District Industries Centre General Manager Gurrala Sudarshan said under the Re-start scheme Anantapur district approved 817 proposals out of 1,214 applications received and it was the highest in Andhra Pradesh. In Prakasam, 337 approvals were given against 1,224 applications and Chittoor sanctioned 594 packages.

The high tension power demand for industries too drastically reduced from 4 million units to below 2 million units during the four months of the pandemic, but demand began rising from August and now it stands at 50% of the original, APSPDCL Superintending Engineer S. Varakumar said.

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