Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: The Utkal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UCCI) urged the Odisha government on Thursday to facilitate the making of wage payments during the COVID-19 lockdown period from the funds available with the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC).

The UCCI also sought granting of working capital loan, additional MUDRA loan on subsidised rate of interest rate and waiver of interest on different types of loans from March till normalcy is restored, said its president Ramesh Mahapatra.

He said the UCCI in a representation to the state government mooted the suggestion of wage payment during the lockdown period from the fund available with the ESIC, stated to be to the tune of Rs 84,000 crore and parked with banks as deposits.

On Wednesday, Union Labour Secretary Heeralal Samariya ruled out appropriating funds of the ESIC for payment of wages to workers or to employers to meet their salary bill during the coronavirus lockdown.

There has been lobbying for some time for using funds of the retirement body EPFO as well as ESIC for providing relief to workers to help them sustain themselves during the nationwide lockdown.

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Earlier this month, a Labour Ministry spokesperson had also denied any such move to appropriate funds of the ESIC and Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to give relief to workers under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana or any other scheme.

Mahapatra further said that as in case of temporary disablement benefit provision of 90 per cent payment exists, the present lockdown amounts to temporary discontinuation and such money be made available for payment of wages by ESIC for the month of April, which will fall due shortly.

The chamber requested the state government to take up the issue with the Labour Ministry.

Highlighting the plight of MSMEs, Mahapatra requested the state government to suitably take up with the Union Finance Ministry granting equivalent amount of working capital loan.

He also sought immediate release of payments due to industries/MSMEs by PSUs and other central and state government agencies which will provide immediate succor to the worst-hit sector.

The UCCI also requested for a special package for start-ups as the young entrepreneurs are suffering due to the unexpected closure.

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Mahapatra said a delegation of the UCCI met Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy and apprised him about the issues confronting the industries, mainly MSMEs and start-ups due to the ongoing lockdown.