With COVID-19 dealing a severe blow to the economy, the Indian steel industry needs government packages and incentives to ensure continuity and minimise losses, states Kamal Aggarwal, general secretary of All India Induction Furnaces Association (Aiifa). Talking at a webinar arranged on April 26 by the association, Aggarwal pointed out assistance the sector could need for the next three-six months.
He has urged the government to bear employer contribution to the Employee Provident Fund and Employee State Insurance for the next three months. Mainly since plants using induction furnaces for production are labour intensive, he adds. Aggarwal also requests the government to lighten the burden by bearing salaries up to Rs15,000/month since Medium and Small Scale Units are unable to afford wages without sales and manufacturing activity. With people having left for their hometowns amid lockdown, availability of labour is big difficulty mills are currently facing. Aggarwal believes it would take six months at the minimum for the workforce to report in requisite numbers for smooth operations.
High input costs and the diminishing margin amid vanishing demand is a major issue the industry is facing. Thus, Aiifa suggests a waiver on interests payable on loans /bank credit for six months as well as GST. Considering the heavy consumption of electricity by induction and electric arc furnaces, power charges is another burden these mills bear. Aiifa calls for a reduction in the unit cost of electricity by at least Rs2. He further added that electricity bills need to be levied on actual usage over fixed rates, with no interest charges for three months on delayed bill payments.