SUKHDEV RAJ, MD, Victor Forgings, Jalandhar believes it will take a Herculean effort to keep the industry running amid the Covid-19 pandemic and it cannot be done without government help. The 85-year-old industrialist, who has seen the industry go through many turbulent times over the past decades, believes government assistance and lower interest rates will go a long way in tackling the crisis. We did not see such moments even during the Indo-Pakistani war. In an interview with Aparna Banerji, Sukhdev Raj explains how a little help from the government can solve the jobs crisis the industry has been facing since the lockdown. Extracts:
What is the impact of containment on the hand tool industry?
The industry has remained largely closed. We are facing a problem in all sectors. All the workers have left and we don’t know how to call them back to work. Many of our orders and shipments have been canceled because customers are facing issues. A majority of orders were canceled. Due to the lack of orders and manpower, the industry suffered a huge setback.
Which area are you having the most problems with?
Without a doubt, the labor shortage is hurting us. We had about 300 to 350 workers with us, of which only 70 to 75 left. We made an effort to get them back, but they say there are no trains running. Workers are unwilling to return in cars or other vehicles. Unless we have a sufficient number of workers, we will not be able to make the industry functional.
Some industries have difficulty obtaining raw materials. Is this also the case for the hand of the industry?
We don’t have a lot of problems in this area. Steel can be readily available at many factories around the state. But our biggest problems are workers and finances.
What are the problems encountered in terms of funding?
If on the one hand our orders have fallen drastically, on the other hand the interest rates are too high. Already, in the midst of the foreclosure, high interest rates are placing an additional burden on us.
What kind of help do you think the government can provide to the industry?
The government can help us with monetary support and provide us with easy loans to keep the industry going. Once things get back to normal, we can pay off those loans. Interest rates should also be reduced. It will be a big help for the industry.
How long do you think such a crisis will persist?
It’s very difficult to say at the moment. Only time will tell how long it will take for things to get back to normal. In the meantime, we hope for monetary support in the midst of the crisis.