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View from India: emergency measures for SMEs and aviation

The second wave of Covid across India was more disruptive and destructive than the first. The Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India have come forward with a slew of Covid relief measures for various industries.

The Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme, also known as ECLGS, was first announced in May 2020 to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic on SMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises).

The scope of the scheme has now been extended to the aviation sector and to encourage healthcare facilities to set up oxygen generating facilities on site.

The settlement, which was due to expire in June, has been extended until September 30, 2021. The second wave of the pandemic has delayed the nascent civil aviation sector recovery by at least a few quarters.

The integration of the civil aviation sector will provide some liquidity support to the hard-hit sector, which has been hit hard by mobility or travel restrictions.

“The healthcare infrastructure in the second and third cities and small towns will benefit the most from the ECLGS 4.0 announcement.

According to the announcement, it will provide a sovereign guarantee for loans of up to Rs 2 crore taken to set up low cost, simple technology based oxygen generation plants on site,” said Subodh Rai, Senior Director, CRISIL Ratings Ltd.

This move will help increase the availability of oxygen, the shortage of which was severely felt during the second wave of the pandemic.

“This arrangement offers financing at an attractive interest rate of 7.5 percent and also avoids the need to provide collateral by hospitals to increase oxygen capacity,” Rai explains.

The PM CARES fund has already given principal approval for the allocation of funds for the installation of 551 special Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Medical Oxygen Generation Plants in public health facilities in the country.

PM has indicated that these installations should be made operational as soon as possible to give a significant boost to the availability of oxygen at the neighborhood level.

The PM CARES Fund is a public charity, the Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund.

ECLGS has been formulated as a specific response to the unprecedented situation caused by Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown, which has severely affected manufacturing and other activities in the SME sector.

The scheme provides additional financing to SMEs of up to Rs 3 lakh crore in the form of a fully guaranteed emergency credit line.

The scheme also encourages affiliated lending institutions (i.e. banks), financial institutions and non-bank financial corporations to increase access to and availability of additional financing facilities for SMEs.

They receive a 100 percent guarantee for any losses they incur as a result of non-repayment of Guaranteed Emergency Line of Credit (GECL) financing by borrowers.

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced that measures amounting to Rs 16,000 crore will be provided to SIDBI. This is to meet the requirements of SMEs. The financial needs can be short-term or long-term.

The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) is the leading financial institution for promoting, financing and developing SMEs.

Backed by RBI, banks have opened a liquidity window of Rs 15,000 crore to benefit sectors such as hotels, restaurants, bus companies and tourism activities, all of which are contact-based services.

RBI is the central banking institution of India, which controls the monetary policy of the Indian rupee. All of these measures will have their full impact as the data is optimized.

Apex body Nasscom stressed the need for an effective data usage strategy in its letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Data and AI (artificial intelligence) are playing a vital role for India in coping with the Covid crisis.

In July 2020, the summit body had called for an urgent need for the country to build a data use strategy.

Covid tracking and vaccination, insights and analytics from data can play a key role in decision making and early warning signs.

Data is one of the most strategic ammunition available to manage the pandemic and better respond. Effective access to data for insights and planning, across states and departments is a priority.

“The devastating impact of the second wave of Covid-19 is being felt across the country and the economic and social impact is unprecedented.

The Indian technology industry is fully committed to supporting the nation to face the crisis,” Nasscom said in its statement.

As foreign vaccines penetrate India, homegrown options are increasing. Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man at the helm of Reliance Industries, has used his refinery in Jamnagar to provide oxygen to Maharashtra.

The conglomerate from refinery to retail has gone a step further. The group is investigating the possibilities of using Niclosamide, a tapeworm drug, as a cure for Covid-19, as reported in the media.

Times like these call for more partnership and cooperation between sectors and government. Times like these call for research and innovation to make Covid medical supplies affordable and accessible.